(JTA) — NYU Steinhardt, a school named for the Jewish philanthropist who is facing allegations of sexual harassment, said it will be “initiating a review into Mr. Steinhardt’s interactions with NYU students, faculty, and staff.”
The statement comes a day after The New York Times published an investigation into allegations by seven women that Michael Steinhardt had propositioned them or said sexually inappropriate remarks while they interacted with him in professional settings.
Steinhardt, 78, has admitted to “boorish, disrespectful and just plain dumb” behavior, but he denies harassment.
New York University’s Steinhardt School offers graduate and undergraduate programs in art, education, music, health and other areas. John Beckman, an NYU spokesman, told Forbes in an email that Steinhardt, an NYU trustee, has been a “generous” supporter of the private university for many years.
“However, the incidents recounted in today’s New York Times article are troubling and out-of-step with appropriate standards of conduct,” Beckman told Forbes. “The University will be initiating a review into Mr. Steinhardt’s interactions with NYU students, faculty, and staff.”
Steinhardt is the co-founder, along with Charles Bronfman, of Birthright Israel, which has sent more than 600,000 young Jewish adults on free trips to Israel. According to The Times, the director of communications for Birthright from 2001 to 2010 said Steinhardt asked her if she and a female colleague would like to join him in a threesome. The accuser said she reported the incident to Birthright’s chief executive at the time, who told The Times that he did not recall her allegations. A spokesman for Steinhardt told the newspaper that the accusation was “simply not true.”
In response to a query from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a Birthright Israel spokesperson who asked not to be named per the organization’s policy said, “To the best of our knowledge, we do not have any record of a complaint made by the former employee noted against Michael Steinhardt. Birthright Israel’s policies, in compliance with law and industry best practices, support a workplace free from harassment by any individual who employees engage with, together with an established protocol for reporting any such experiences and a mechanism for investigating allegations. Any employee who ever experiences harassment of any sort should report it immediately in accordance with our policies.”
Steinhardt, a retired investor, is a supporter of numerous Jewish causes through The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Its website lists Birthright, OneTable and two Hebrew language charter schools, among other programs. The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History opened in Tel Aviv in 2017.
Steinhardt also supports various New York City cultural and educational institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
His family and foundations responded to The New York Times article Thursday, saying remarks that women said made them feel debased were made in “jest.”
In a statement to The Times, Steinhardt said, “In my nearly 80 years on earth I have never tried to touch any woman or man inappropriately. As I have said before, I deeply regret cavalierly making comments in professional settings that were boorish, disrespectful and just plain dumb. They were part of my shtick since before I had a penny to my name, and I unequivocally meant them in jest. I fully understand why they were inappropriate. I am sorry. I never intended to cause any embarrassment, discomfort or pain.”