- The University of Rochester announced on Monday that its next president will be Sarah Mangelsdorf, currently provost of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will become the first woman to lead the private New York college in its 168-year history, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
- Mangelsdorf will assume her new role in the summer, taking over for Richard Feldman, the interim president. She replaces Joel Seligman, who resigned in January amid allegations that he and other university leaders had covered up sexual harassment by a professor.
- The university selected Mangelsdorf from a pool of "hundreds" of candidates, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. It has not released her compensation, but her predecessor earned nearly $2 million in 2016, ranking him among the 10 highest-paid private college leaders, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The role of college president is changing, with many institutions requiring a leader capable of navigating through enrollment declines, reduced state support and hot-button issues such as freedom of speech on campus.
As a result, presidents are spending less time in the role, and one analysis predicts a "wave of departures" is imminent. And while many presidents stepping down recently did so after successful tenures, several others did so on the heels of scandals that rocked their campus communities.
At the U of Rochester, the last president stepped down after students called on him for months to resign amid allegations that he and his administration were covering up a professor's sexual harassment and retaliating against those who came forward, The New York Times reported. Seligman resigned the same day an outside report cleared him of any legal wrongdoing, though it did acknowledge the professor in question had acted offensively and inappropriately.
Seligman told The Times that the college's board of trustees did not ask him to step down, but rather that he came to believe it was in the university's "best interest" to have a "fresh start under a new leader."
Other private college presidencies have been upended over sexual misconduct scandals. Baylor University, for example, demoted Ken Starr from from its top leadership post in 2016 after victims of sexual assault alleged the institution was not taking their complaints seriously. An independent investigation into the allegations found the university's conduct procedures were "wholly inadequate" and that it "failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment." Starr resigned soon after.
Public colleges have not been immune from such scandals. Lou Anna Simon stepped down as Michigan State University's president earlier this year after former university sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 in prison for committing sexual assault under the guise of practicing medicine. Simon has since been charged with lying to police about her knowledge of Nassar's abuses, and the university has established a $500 settlement fund for his victims.
Likewise, the University of Southern California agreed to a $215 million settlement over allegations of sexual misconduct against the one of the college's former gynecologists. The university's president at the time, C.L. Max Nikias, stepped down over the summer in the wake of the scandal.
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has grappled with its own sexual misconduct scandal during Mangelsdorf's tenure after it came to light that one professor was at the center of multiple sexual harassment allegations.
In her new role, Mangelsdorf will likely be involved with helping U of Rochester address the fallout from its own scandal. A working group this week released proposed changes to the university's discrimination and harassment policy to help clarify the definition of sexual harassment and what should happen after a complaint is made. Ambiguities in the policy were noted in a report on the incident.