Michael McEwen and Diego Diaz / PantherNOW Staff
After two months of investigation, FIU released the independent report detailing former President Mark B. Rosenberg’s unwanted advances towards a female employee.
“Given his position as President of a major educational institution…and the obvious power dynamic that existed in the relationship, the President, at best, displayed extremely poor judgment,” reads the report.
News of the investigation surfaced following Rosenberg’s abrupt resignation on Jan. 21 after 13 years as President Both Rosenberg and the University initially cited his wife’s declining health as the primary reason for resignation.
However, Rosenberg released a memo two days later admitting he had caused “discomfort for a valued colleague,” and that this was the true cause of his departure.
The Isicoff Ragatz law firm, the firm that conducted the report, interviewed five individuals involved with the events–including Rosenberg, Rosenberg’s Chief of Staff Javier Marques, the female employee, the employee’s supervisor and Board of Trustees Chair Dean Colson.
Text messages, emails and other communication between Rosenberg and the female employee during this period were also reviewed as part of the investigation.
Though the emails portrayed a friendly, professional working relationship, text messages, on the other hand, revealed an “inappropriate level of familiarity and informality” from both Rosenberg and the employee, according to the investigator.
Both sent compliments to each other, often including hearts and other emojis. The employee also sent multiple photographs of herself outside of work, including pictures of herself working out.
An occasion exemplifying their relationship is displayed in a thread of text messages between the two after the female employee sent Rosenberg his flight information.
Rosenberg replied, “Omg. Thanks. Fortunately for me you are an amazing person!” to which the employee responded, “Amazing people find each other!!!”
PantherNOW’S Timeline of the investigation:
- July 2019: The female employee, a former FIU student in her 20’s, is hired to work in Mark B. Rosenberg’s office under a former sorority sister supervisor.
- June 2021: Rosenberg began the process of obtaining a Jewish divorce–or a get–which would functionally end their marriage in the eyes of Rosenberg’s faith amid his wife’s declining health.
- Early October 2021: While in Las Vegas with his son, Rosenberg contacted the female employee repeatedly as she was visiting nearby Salt Lake City. He asked her to visit him there and offered to pay for her hotel room, according to the female employee. While Rosenberg and the female employee’s trips to Las Vegas did not overlap, Rosenberg is believed to have either paid for her room or have had the rate waived.
- Rosenberg claims that there was no expectation of the two trips overlapping and denies that he had asked her to visit him while he was in Las Vegas.
- Mid-October 2021: On consecutive days, Rosenberg met with both the supervisor and the employee over meals, insisting they meet separately when prompted to meet as a group, according to the supervisor’s testimony.
- Oct. 16, 2021: Rosenberg took the supervisor to breakfast, leading to a discussion over his plans to obtain a Jewish divorce but remain his wife’s legal caretaker, adding that he wanted to find an “emotional companion” and that his wife “no longer remembered him”.
- Oct. 17, 2021: During a discussion over lunch, the female employee claims that Rosenberg asked where she saw herself in five years, asking her if she would be his companion after he stepped down as FIU President and requesting she “think it over.” The female employee claimed in her testimony that Rosenberg mentioned she could be his “lover,” to which Rosenberg denied.
- Oct. 26, 2021: A recruiter approaches Rosenberg to interview for the open Presidency seat at Auburn University.
- Rosenberg informed both the supervisor and the female employee of the interview, with both expressing a desire to continue working for him should he accept the position.
- The female employee allegedly provided Rosenberg with the URL to Auburn’s PhD program in Public Administration–one she had expressed interest in–according to Rosenberg’s testimony.
- Between Oct. 16 and Nov. 5, 2021: Rosenberg invited the employee to lunch at the FIU’s Ronald Reagan Presidential House, where he professed his love for her and asked to marry her, adding that she would be “financially and professionally taken care of,” according to the female employee.
- Rosenberg denies saying he wanted to marry the employee, stating that he does not plan on getting legally divorced, and even if such an event occurred, doesn’t believe he will remarry.
- Nov. 5, 2021: After attending a soccer game with two friends, the female employee began to cry in her friend’s car due to the situation with Rosenberg. She sought advice from friends and her mother, all of whom recommended she leave Rosenberg’s office due to the “toxic environment.”
- Early November 2021: The female employee informed her supervisor of her plans to transfer out of the office, but “provided no details.”
- Over dinner at Graziano’s–a local Italian restaurant–the female employee informed Rosenberg that she is not interested in a relationship with him and wants a transfer. Rosenberg then promised to stop any advances, according to the employee’s testimony.
- It was during this same period that Rosenberg claims he had bought shoes for the employee as a gift. She accepted the shoes and later asked Rosenberg to exchange them for the correct size.
- Following the conversation at Graziano’s, the female employee claims that Rosenberg continued his advances, refusing to eat lunch without her and calling her “princess.” Rosenberg denies both claims.
- Nov. 9, 2021: Rosenberg met with the supervisor, admitting that he may have made the female employee uncomfortable and that he planned on apologizing to her.
- Following the meeting, the supervisor testified that she mentioned the conversation to no one and that everything seemed fine until the week of Dec. 14, 2021.
- Nov. 21, 2021: The female employee acknowledged to the investigator that she received both a raise and promotion on November 21, 2021 but that she was unhappy with the increase in salary as well as the new title, which was not what she had requested.
- Chief of Staff Javier Marques testified that he initially pushed back on the promotion because the female employee received a raise in either December 2020 or January 2021. Human Resources also pushed against the idea of a promotion because they determined that she didn’t meet the criteria for the position, according to Marques’ testimony.
- The supervisor informed Marques that the female employee stated Rosenberg should have pushed harder for her to gain the promotion.
- Nov. 28, 2021: On the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the female employee dropped off a file to Rosenberg at his home. This led to a two-and-a-half hour-long conversation, according to Rosenberg’s testimony.
- Dec. 12, 2021: Rosenberg states that he and the female employee spent time together at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse following the day’s commencement ceremonies at FIU.
- December 14th, 2021: Rosenberg received his Jewish divorce. On this same day, the employee visited Rosenberg’s office and told him she could no longer work with him because he was “too emotional.” According to the female employee, Rosenberg pleaded with her to stay, to which she replied “No.”
- However, Rosenberg claimed that earlier in the day the employee had texted him, offering to drive him to a meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential House.
- The female employee also meets with her supervisor, informing her that Rosenberg had “creeped her out” and told her he loved her. However, the female employee asked the supervisor not to report the situation internally.
- During an unrelated conversation, Rosenberg informed Marques that he had conversations with the female employee over their potential companionship and that he may have misinterpreted the situation.
- Marques then requested that the supervisor contact the female employee and confirm that she was okay.
- Dec. 15, 2021: Marques met with the supervisor, who confirmed that the female employee felt “weird” and that Rosenberg had already reached out to apologize.
- The supervisor then met with Marques and informed him of the separate October meals as well as a travel list Rosenberg provided the female employee of locations he wanted to visit with her.
- Marques then met with Rosenberg to express his concerns over interactions with the female employee. Rosenberg admitted his feelings for the female employee and Marques suggested Rosenberg contact the Board of Trustees Chair, Dean Colson.
- Colson then informed Roger Tovar, the Board of Trustees Vice Chair, and Carlos Castillo, FIU’s general counsel on the situation. Castillo and Colson agreed to bring on the law firm of Isicoff Ragatz to conduct an independent investigation.
- Jan. 19, 2022: Colson is briefed by investigator Eric Isicoff and Castillo on the statements made by the female employee during her interview. The brief raised concerns over the seriousness of the events that transpired the previous semester.
- Jan. 20, 2022: Colson informed the Board of Trustees of the events and investigation, after which he called Rosenberg, stating he couldn’t see a way Rosenberg’s presidency would survive.
Following his resignation, the former president’s status is that of a tenured faculty member for the Steve J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
Isicoff Ragatz will present the findings to the FIU Faculty Advisory Board, also known as the Human Resources team, who will review the report and give their recommended course of action.
From there–depending on the perceived severity of the misconduct–the recommendation will either be given to the department chair, dean or provost to enact the appropriate disciplinary action.
As of now, Rosenberg’s future with FIU remains unclear.