Who’s Reading Your Email?

Lindsay McKenzie:

In 2016, two faculty members at the University of Rochester filed a sexual harassment complaint against their colleague T. Florian Jaeger.

The two faculty members, Richard Aslin and Jessica Cantlon, said they were whistle-blowers, acting to protect their students from a potentially predatory professor. They expected support from their institution, but, they said, they didn’t get it.

After insisting that the university’s two internal investigations into Jaeger (which both found no evidence of wrongdoing) had been flawed, Aslin and Cantlon said the university administration turned on them.

Both faculty members had their university email accounts searched by administrators in an apparent attempt to find information that might be used to discredit them, they said.

The searches took place without their knowledge or consent and were likely in violation of the university’s IT privacy policy, said Aslin.

“Of course, the university has the authority to look at emails under appropriate circumstances, such as if there were suspicion of a crime, but we were whistle-blowers,” said Aslin. He described the email search as a “creepy” invasion of privacy with “no good cause.”

Perhaps more troubling than the search was what the institution did with the messages, said Cantlon.

Cantlon only found out that her email had been searched after her department chair, Greg DeAngelis, confronted her with a pile of printouts containing messages between Cantlon and several colleagues that criticized the way DeAngelis had handled Jaeger.