An independent law firm’s review of allegations of misconduct by a UConn faculty member has found what it calls “strong, credible evidence” of wrongdoing, and praises UConn President Susan Herbst and the current administration for acting “appropriately and aggressively” upon learning of the allegations last year.
Scott Coffina, lead attorney on the investigation for the firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, presented the 71-page report Wednesday to the Board of Trustees. A special committee of the board had ordered the outside review at Herbst’s recommendation, after learning last summer that police had launched a criminal investigation involving UConn music professor Robert Miller.
The review examines allegations that Miller engaged in sexual misconduct with minors off campus and with University students, and that some University officials failed to investigate and act when they learned of the rumored wrongdoing several years ago.
“[Our] investigation revealed strong, credible evidence that Professor Miller engaged in serious misconduct with minors and with University students. In addition, special counsel found the response of University officials prior to February 2013 was insufficient to ensure the safety of minors on campus and of University students,” the report reads.
“University officials, however, responded with commendable urgency in and after February 2013 to the allegations then brought to light … [They] responded appropriately and aggressively to ensure the safety of minors on campus and of University students with respect to the allegations that came to light beginning in February 2013,” the report continues.
The report and other documents, including a timeline of the case, can be viewed in their entirety on a special website created by the University: www.uconn.edu/public-notification.
The Drinker Biddle report concluded that several people at UConn knew of the allegations or learned of them at various points in 2006, 2008, and 2011, but failed to fully investigate, or to enact and enforce limits on Miller’s interaction with students.
Herbst and Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh both called the report’s findings disturbing, saying the safety of students and the community is of paramount concern and that further action is anticipated based on the review’s findings.
“Our focus is on identifying the truth and shining a bright light on it, whether that truth reflects well on UConn or not,” Herbst said Wednesday. “As leaders, we would not hesitate to defend the University when the record shows it has acted appropriately, but by the same token, we would not defend the indefensible. Being forthright about our successes and our failures is essential; that is how we earn and keep the trust of our students and the larger community we serve.”
McHugh said that in reading the report, two conclusions were abundantly clear: that the allegations involving Miller were not properly handled in the years before they came to the current administration in 2013, and that President Herbst and the current leadership “took swift, decisive, and absolutely appropriate action” upon learning of the potential wrongdoing.
“What was most important to the board, to the committee and me as its chair, to the University, and to President Herbst, was the truth,” McHugh said. “The University and the board were interested in facts and evidence, no matter where they took that investigation and regardless of how the findings reflected on the University. Our goal was not to avoid the consequences of past actions – our goal was to do the right thing.”
Miller was placed on administrative leave in June 2013. He declined to be interviewed by the outside law firm for its independent investigation.
The investigation involved multiple interviews, examination of electronic and written documents, review of numerous hard drives, and other reviews. Drinker Biddle also provided methods for victims and others with information to contact them by phone or email, but said in its report that it received no communications through those outlets.
The report found no credible evidence to support rumors of illegal incidents in residence halls involving Miller.
The issue came to the current UConn administration’s attention when an anonymous letter from December 2011 that contained allegations of misconduct against Miller was brought to the attention of Brid Grant, dean of the School of Fine Arts, on Feb. 13, 2013.
Grant turned over the letter to the University’s Title IX Coordinator/Associate Vice President for Diversity and Equity and the Office of Labor Relations, which then contacted UConn Police.
In the course of multiple police investigations, an affidavit was filed in Rockville Superior Court on June 20, 2013. The next day, in accordance with University policies, UConn placed Miller on paid administrative leave and restricted him from campus, pending the outcome of the internal personnel investigation.
At the direction of Herbst, the University’s administration immediately began a personnel investigation of Miller, broadened the scope of the police investigation, commenced a Title IX investigation, engaged an outside forensic investigator to assist in the inquiries, and hired an outside law firm as special counsel to conduct the independent investigation.
Although the accusations predated the tenure of UConn’s current president, dean of the School of Fine Arts, and chief of police, the special counsel was selected by the state Office of the Attorney General and was required to report directly to the UConn Board of Trustees, rather than the administration, to ensure the independence of the inquiry.
“There was no interference with or attempt to influence the course or outcome of Special Counsel’s investigation by anyone associated with the University,” Drinker Biddle wrote in its report. “In addition, no restriction was placed on any information to which Special Counsel requested access. [We] received full support from the [board's] special committee and full cooperation from the University at all stages of our investigation.”