Sergio Verdú

Electrical engineering professor Sergio Verdú, a faculty member for 34 years, was dismissed from the faculty as of Sept. 24 for violating Princeton’s policies prohibiting consensual relations with students and requiring honesty and cooperation in University matters.

The Board of Trustees approved the recommendation for dismissal by President Eisgruber ’83 and Provost Deborah Prentice on Sept. 22. 

According to a University statement, the recommendation “was reviewed by an independent, standing committee of the faculty at the request of Dr. Verdú, and that committee agreed with the finding that Dr. Verdú violated those policies and concluded that the recommended penalty was reasonable.”

In a separate action on the same day Verdú’s dismissal took effect, Eisgruber and Dean of the Faculty Sanjeev Kulkarni released a letter saying that effective immediately, a one-year suspension without pay will be the presumptive minimum penalty for any faculty member found to have committed sexual harassment. Suspensions will be accompanied by counseling and probation, Eisgruber and Kulkarni said, and more serious harassment cases will bring stiffer penalties that could include dismissal.

Verdú’s dismissal followed a separate case last year in which he was found responsible for sexual harassment after a Title IX complaint was filed by a graduate student, Yeohee Im, who was his advisee. The penalty assessed by Princeton — Im said it was an eight-hour training session; the University said there were “other penalties” it could not disclose — set off a campus outcry from students, faculty, and alumni who felt the punishment was insufficient.

After that outcry, the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct made a number of recommendations in a May report to make Title IX investigation proceedings and penalties more transparent and to provide complainants with more information throughout the process. 

Announcing the minimum penalty last month, Eisgruber and Kulkarni released a statement saying that for too long, institutions have underestimated the prevalence and the harm of sexual harassment. “We have also been too optimistic about the power of good will or relatively light penalties to cure the problem,” they said. 

Im said in a statement to PAW that “there are still many fundamental changes that have to be made.” Citing “the current clumsy structures of the University policy and the Title IX law,” she said “it is difficult for victims to take any further action unless they are willing to sacrifice a huge portion of their lives.”

This is a revised version of a story published in the Oct. 24, 2018, issue.