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Report Confirms, Expands Abuse Allegations

A 53-page independent report commissioned by the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees has shown that, until 2001, there were multiple occasions when YU administrators failed to protect the safety of its students. The report, conducted by Sullivan & Cromwell and S&C Litigation Group, was released to the general public and to the Board of Trustees simultaneously at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

The report alleges that the investigation operated with complete independence from the university, although the university covered the $2.5 million cost of the report. The investigative team was given unrestricted access to university documents, including millions of institutional emails. They were also authorized to interview all present and former university faculty, staff, students, employees, and lawyers. The report took over six thousand hours to process.

The team requested interviews with every former university employee who was identified as a perpetrator of sexual abuse. While they interviewed over 145 individuals, over 70 did not respond to “multiple messages, phone calls, emails or registered letters from the Investigation team.”

The report did not specify who declined to be interviewed and did not mention any names. It also notes that a few individuals declined to be interviewed, due to “age and mental health.”

In total, the team claims to have gathered over 2.6 million emails, including 70,000 emails fitting a set of relevant search terms. The report notes, however, that the University did not have an institution-wide email system before 1996 and that “the vast majority of emails collected by the Investigative team are dates to 2003 or thereafter.”

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the now $680 million lawsuit against YU did not make the 31 alleged abuse victims available for interview.

Despite the limitations, the team concluded that multiple incidents of various types of sexual and physical abuse took place at MTA High School during the 1970s and 1980s. In a new revelation, the report also found that “sexual and physical abuse took place at other schools comprising the University as well.”

Citing pending litigation against Yeshiva University, the investigative team was “directed by the Special Committee” to describe its findings in a “summary fashion,” casting doubt on the true independence of the investigation.  This committee of members of the Board of Trustees was established to “interface” with the investigative team.

The report mentions the names of two alleged abuse perpetrators--George Finkelstein, Macy Gordon--but does not mention Richard Andron, a third alleged perpetrator. The report does not detail the actions of Rabbis Norman Lamm, Israel Miller, Mayer Twersky, Yosef Blau, David Weinback, Robert Hirt or Herschel Schachter, who were accused of failing to act upon information given to them about abuse in the 148-page lawsuit filed by alleged victims.

Unlike the lawsuit, the report does not mention any dates, locations, and details of abuse. It does not detail information about where additional abuse happened at Yeshiva University.

The vast majority of the Sullivan & Cromwell Investigation was dedicated to policy reviews and recommendations for Yeshiva University and MTA High School. T&M Protection Resources, a firm specializing in abuse allegations, was contracted to evaluate the current procedures.  According to the report, the University is “committed to creating an environment at its High Schools and other affiliated schools in which sexual misconduct and other types of harassment are not tolerated, and if they occur, will be dealt with in an appropriately sensitive, effective and professional manner.”

T&M also reviewed current policies with regard to the report of abuse and harassment and found the policy to be a “gold standard” for handling charges in the “safest, most hospitable learning environments.”

A 10-page “Anti Harassment Policy” comprised the end of the report. It encourages students to intervene in a harassment situation and requires all YU employees and volunteers to intervene in such a situation. It also outlines ways in which students and employees can report abuse to Yeshiva University authorities.  Also included in the appendix to the report are new  “Boundary Guidelines” and “Athletic Policies.”

In an email sent to Yeshiva University employees and students, the Board of Trustees thanked Sullivan & Cromwell and T&M for “all of their work.” They also thanked “the many individuals who, despite the personal and emotional sacrifice associated with doing so, made themselves available for interviews and who otherwise assisted in the investigation.”

 The First issue of The Commentator will be published shortly.