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Shmuel Herzfeld, who is the rabbi of Washington, D.C.’s National Synagogue and graduated from Y.U.’s high school in 1992, is one of those who have publicly complained about the investigation.
Herzfeld said he spoke to Karen Seymour, the lawyer leading the Sullivan & Cromwell team, by telephone on December 26. Herzfeld said he had in mind the report commissioned by Pennsylvania State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal when he spoke to Seymour.
In the Penn State case, Louis Freeh, a former head of the FBI, was given access to university employees and board members. Although some said that the Freeh report had its flaws, it was seen as a breakthrough in transparency and in an institution’s willingness to confront errors in judgment.
But Herzfeld said he was dismayed when Seymour told him that her report might be delivered to the Y.U. board orally rather than in writing. He said he was even more alarmed when Seymour said that unlike the Freeh report, which was disseminated publicly the same day it was presented to the board, she “could not say whether… the board would release the report to the public.”
Herzfeld said he has spoken to former Y.U. high school students who say they were abused but are fearful “that what they tell the investigator will not be given a proper hearing.” So Herzfeld sent a letter, signed by 18 Y.U. high school alumni, to the chairman of the university’s board on January 3, asking that the investigation follow the blueprint laid out by the Freeh report. By January 8, the chairman, Henry Kressel, a managing director at a private equity firm in Manhattan, had not responded.
When a reporter from the Forward called Kressel on January 7 and identified himself, Kressel cut off the call. Kressel’s assistant later directed the Forward to Y.U.’s press office. (Y.U.’s press office did not respond to several questions, including a request to know who on the board is overseeing the investigation and when the board might decide to make the report public.)