MIAMI -- The president of Florida International University has now explained his abrupt resignation, telling students, faculty and staff that he's ending his 45-year career because of an “emotional (not physical) entanglement" with a valued colleague.
Mark Rosenberg initially cited the health of himself and his wife in his emailed announcement Friday. His Sunday statement to the South Florida university community said his wife's deteriorating condition — she has advanced dementia — had led him to act inappropriately with a co-worker.
“Regrettably, these issues spilled over to my work and I caused discomfort for a valued colleague. I unintentionally created emotional (not physical) entanglement. I have apologized. I apologize to you. I take full responsibility and regret my actions," the statement said.
The Miami Herald reported that a woman in her 20s who worked closely with the 72-year-old university president confided to a colleague in December that he had been harassing her for months.
The school hired an outside law firm to lead an investigation, which will likely result in a final report within weeks, the newspaper reported.
The Herald reported that the harassment began in October, and the woman rejected his overtures, saying they made her feel uncomfortable. Rosenberg apologized profusely and said it would not happen again, but made the same unwanted overtures again a few weeks later, with the woman again conveying her discomfort, the Herald reported.
When it happened a third time, the woman decided to distance herself from Rosenberg, and told a colleague she could not continue working with him, the newspaper reported.
The next day, Rosenberg told FIU Board of Trustees Chairman Dean Colson what had transpired, and Colson launched the investigation. The woman was placed on paid administrative leave, and it took several weeks for her to agree to sit down with investigators. She did so Wednesday, the Herald reported, and Rosenberg was given a choice Thursday: resign or face termination at an emergency meeting of FIU's Board of Trustees.
In a statement issued Sunday, Colson said: “The statement by Dr. Rosenberg provides greater insight into his resignation on Friday. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the events requiring his resignation. Due to employee privacy considerations, FIU is not going to comment further at this time. FIU has strong personnel and workplace conduct policies, takes all workplace conduct seriously, and remains committed to enforcing its policies thoroughly and swiftly.”
The trustees nominated Kenneth Jessell, FIU’s chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance and administration, as interim president. His nomination must be confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's public universities.
Rosenberg joined FIU in 1976 as an assistant professor of political science. He founded the Latin American and Caribbean Center in 1979.
FIU’s main campus is located in western Miami-Dade County, with branch campuses located throughout South Florida. Enrollment includes about 42,000 undergraduate students and 17,000 graduate students.
“I have apologized. I apologize to you," Rosenberg said in his statement. “I take full responsibility and regret my actions.”
Rosenberg’s resignation Friday came only days after the University of Michigan removed its president, Mark Schlissel, over an “inappropriate relationship with a university employee.”