August 26, 2013
Investigation: Y.U. sex abuse extended beyond high school for boys
Incidents of physical and sexual abuse at Yeshiva University were not limited to its high school for boys, an investigation has found.
An outside investigation commissioned by the university following reports of sexual abuse by two faculty members at Y.U.’s high school for boys in the 1970s and ‘80s confirmed that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” at the school.
Individuals in positions of authority perpetrated the incidents, which continued even after administration members had been made aware of the problem, according to the investigation.
The probe also found sexual abuse at other divisions of the university but did not describe them in any detail or specify where they took place.
Carried out by the New York-based law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and released Monday, the investigation was prompted by a Dec. 13, 2012 article in the Forward newspaper titled “Student Claims of Abuse not Reported by Yeshiva U.”
The article centered on abuse allegations against two Y.U. faculty members, Rabbi George Finkelstein, an administrator and faculty member from 1963 to 1995, and Rabbi Macy Gordon, a teacher from 1956 to 1983.
A group of former students filed a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University in early July, just days after Y.U.’s longtime chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, announced he was stepping down with the end of his contract and acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. The lawsuit has grown to $680 million.
“There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution,” YU President Richard Joel said in a statement released Monday. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire University community, I express my deepest and most heartfelt remorse, and truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims. Although we cannot change the past, we remain committed to making confidential counseling services available to those individual victims in the hope they can achieve a more peaceful future.”
Investigators at Sullivan and Cromwell, led by Karen Patton Seymour, sought to interview the former students named in the suit, but their lawyers declined to make them available, according to the Sullivan and Cromwell report.
“Up until 2001, there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all,” the report found. “This lack of an appropriate response by the University caused victims to believe that their complaints fell on deaf ears or were simply not believed by the University’s administration.”
The report noted that Y.U.’s responses to allegations of abuse after 2001 improved significantly but issued detailed recommendations for new policies at the school to prevent and report sexual or physical abuse or harassment. The report did not go into detail on the past instances of sexual abuse.
Investigators at the law firm and T&M Protection Services, a firm specializing in preventing sex abuse, spent 6,300 hours on the investigation, including interviews with 145 people, according to the report.
According to the investigators, 70 people contacted either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for interviews.