Board of Trustees Announces Law Firm Aiding Investigation Into Steinhardt

After a month of silence on its investigation of the sexual harassment allegations against Michael Steinhardt, the Board of Trustees named the law firm aiding its investigation and listed resources members of the NYU community could use to share any experiences with Steinhardt.

Steinhardt flags fly above its Washington Square East building. (Staff Photo by Alana Beyer)

The Board of Trustees announced in an email to the NYU community on Monday that law firm Ropes & Gray LLP is aiding it in its investigation of trustee Michael Steinhardt — who was accused of sexual harassment in March by seven women. Joan McPhee, a lawyer at the firm, has been assisting the Board with the investigation.

According to her biography on the law firm’s website, McPhee has experience in criminal law and co-led an investigation commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee into Dr. Larry Nassar, who more than 160 women accused of sexual abuse.

A Board investigation into Steinhardt was first mentioned at a March 28 University Senate meeting, and the scope of the investigation has been limited to Steinhardt’s interactions with faculty, staff and students.

In April, WSN reported that the Board did not specify a timeframe for the investigation or name the firm it was working with.

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“Although there is no specific timeframe, rest assured that the subcommittee will work diligently,” the Board wrote to WSN.

The memorandum also provides an email address and phone number for students, faculty and staff to share any experiences they’ve had with Steinhardt. These experiences will be processed by McPhee. The Board has still not specified a timeframe for the investigation.

The Board previously said that members who are not involved in this committee will also meet with students, faculty and staff to get their input.

In March, the New York Times and ProPublica released a report in which seven women claimed that Steinhardt — who is also the namesake of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development — had sexually harassed them. Steinhardt allegedly made comments about women’s bodies and fertility. He would also repeatedly ask women if they wanted to have sex with him.

Steinhardt Dean Dominic Brewer condemned the actions of the school’s namesake in an email sent to Steinhardt students shortly after the report was published.

“[T]he kind of remarks and behavior recounted in the news story are out-of-step with our school’s values,” Brewer wrote.

The Board formed the Subcommittee on Inappropriate Conduct Review in response to the New York Times article.

After the allegations against Steinhardt broke, some students called for the university to change the name of the Steinhardt school. There has not been an instance in which NYU has changed the name of a building due to a namesake’s controversy. In 2015, the Black and Brown Coalition asked that the university change the name of the Elmer Holmes Bobst library, as Bobst was an anti-Semite and accused pedophile. The administration has not taken any action on the matter so far. NYU removed actor Bill Cosby’s name from a film program after he was accused of sexual assault that same year.

When asked in April whether it would change the name of the Steinhardt school, the Board declined to comment. The Board has also not specified any other consequences the investigation could have for Steinhardt.

“[W]ith these efforts underway, it would inappropriate to engage in speculative discussion about unrelated matters,” the Board wrote in an email to WSN.

If you have or know anyone who has had experiences with Michael Steinhardt, contact [email protected] or call 617-235-4030.

Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]

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