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Report finds UConn failed to act appropriately to sexual misconduct allegations

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published February 26. 2014 12:00PM   Updated February 26. 2014 7:02PM

Storrs - University of Connecticut officials failed to respond sufficiently to allegations that music professor Robert F. Miller had engaged in sexual misconduct with minors, putting the university community at risk, according to a Philadelphia law firm that conducted an independent investigation.

The firm, Drinker Biddle & Reath, found credible evidence that Miller had engaged in sexual misconduct with minors and had inappropriate relationships with students, including inviting them to his Vermont cabin and providing them with alcohol. On campus, Miller gravitated toward younger male students with a consistent appearance that became known as "Bob's Boys." The firm found evidence of truth in a rumor that circulated widely on campus that Miller was seen dancing with a male student late at night in the music department, both in their underwear.

After interviewing 57 witnesses and reviewing more than 27,000 emails and more than 6,000 pages of documents, the firm, which had been tasked with evaluating the university's response to complaints about Miller, presented its report this morning to the University's Board of Trustees.

President Susan Herbst and Board Chairman Larry McHugh called the finding that university officials, including former Dean David Woods, failed to act on information about Miller received as early as 2003, disturbing and troubling and said the board would be taking action as swiftly as possible and would notify the public. Woods is no longer a dean but is a professor in good standing with the university.

Officials noted that no student has come forward with a criminal complaint against Miller.

"We dodged a bullet," said Richard Orr, general counsel for the university. "There's no evidence that failure to act actually harmed any university student."

Miller, a tenured professor in his mid-60s who has been with the university since 1983, was placed on paid administrative leave last year. In February 2013, Professor Catherine Jarjisian, then head of the music department, turned over to Dean Brid Grant an anonymous letter that alleged Miller had sexually abused boys at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp years earlier. In June 2013, police executed a search warrant at Miller's Mansfield home. Though the statute of limitations on sexual assaults at the Hole in the Wall Gang camp have expired, Virginia authorities could still charge Miller with molesting a middle school student in 1969.

The Miller allegations came to light just as the Jerry Sandusky scandal was unfolding at Pennsylvania State University. This morning, a trustee asked whether there are any similarities. Drinker Biddle attorney Scott A. Coffina, who presented the findings, said Sandusky had repeatedly used university resources to molest children, which was not the case with Miller.

"The biggest and most important difference is that Robert Miller was not Jerry Sandusky, as bad as his conduct was," Coffina said.

Coffina said the university's response once the allegations came to light last year, including initiating a Title IX investigation and notifying police, was "forceful."

Miller has retained an attorney and refused to speak with the law firm during its investigation. He continues to collect his $140,907 a year salary. Orr, the university attorney, said the collective bargaining unit to which Miller belongs allows sanctions "up to and including termination."

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