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Report: UConn Knew of Sex Abuse Claims Against Professor

STORRS, Conn. ― University of Connecticut officials knew of sexual abuse allegations against a music professor a decade before taking action, putting students at the school and the community at risk, according to an independent investigative report released Wednesday.

The investigator, Scott Coffina, a former White House counsel and former assistant U.S. attorney, presented his findings Wednesday to the school’s Board of Trustees.

Coffina said he found that some school officials, including the dean of the school of fine arts, knew as early as 2003 that the professor, Robert Miller, had been accused of misconduct with children, including the son of a music school professor but that “no one took appropriate action to ensure the safety of minors on campus or university students.”

Miller was suspended from his $140,000-a-year job in June after the child abuse allegations came to light. He has not been charged with a crime, but UConn said a police investigation is still open. Miller has not commented on the allegations, and a phone call seeking comment was left at his home Wednesday.

No UConn students were victims of crimes, Coffina’s investigation found. But he also found evidence that Miller, a former director of the music school, engaged in rampant misconduct and violations of school policy.

Those included inviting students to overnight parties that involved alcohol at a house he owned in Vermont, which became known in the music department as Miller’s “Cabin Club.” Coffina also found evidence Miller showered with students at his health club, was naked with students in a hot tub and was caught dancing in his underwear with a student late at night in the music department.

School officials were notified on several occasions of Miller’s on-campus behavior and reports he had abused children at a local camp. A faculty meeting resulted only in a letter from David Woods, the dean of fine arts, to Miller in 2008 advising him not to socialize with students.

“Nothing can excuse some of the behavior detailed in this report on the part of certain individuals,” UConn president Susan Herbst said in a statement she read to the board. “The safety of our students—and the safety of the entire community—is paramount for us. As a university, we must always be absolutely accountable. And so must our employees.”

A phone call and email to Woods, who is now a professor at the school, were not immediately returned.

Coffina said he found evidence to support allegations that Miller inappropriately touched boys who attended a camp for sick children in Connecticut and a child in Virginia in 1969.

He also found evidence that Miller had inappropriate contact with the professor’s child, having that boy disrobe while he applied makeup on the child’s face for an opera production on campus.

State police have said the statute of limitations has expired in the Connecticut cases but not for the Virginia allegations.

University attorney Richard Orr said the school received the report only Monday and must follow its normal disciplinary process, which he said could result in the dismissal of Miller and others who failed to act when they learned of the allegations.

“We dodged a bullet,” said Orr, “because there is no evidence that the failure to act actually caused any harm to any student or any member of the community.”

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