Safe New Haven
Naomi Wolf’s “The Silent Treatment” [March 1] makes an intense argument for meaningful, effective regulation and punishment of faculty members who molest students. Since Yale will not address this ongoing problem, it’s up to the alumni and public to take action and stop donating money to the university. When its budget starts to hurt, it might occur to the administration that parents want a safe place for their daughters to study.
Claire L. Frankel, Manhattan
If Naomi Wolf needs a new sin to reflect upon this Yom Kippur, she can ponder her responsibility for making my retinas detach from all the eye-rolling I did while reading her article. To learn about real encroachment, she should try riding the F train at rush hour.
John Dragonetti, Wood Ridge, N.J.
I commend naomi wolf for providing a very informative account of her professor’s inappropriate behavior when she was a student at Yale. By not judging Harold Bloom but instead focusing on the university’s need for a system of preventive measures and accountability, she demonstrates character. Surely the high-minded scholars at Yale can come up with a program to teach their professors about personal boundaries and mutual respect. If they need help, my son’s first-grade teacher can provide them with a few lesson plans.
Judythe Minale, Lavallette, N.J.
I was in the class of 1983 at Yale, and like Naomi Wolf, I was an English major and took a class with Harold Bloom. While I do not condone his sexual innuendos and teasing comments—he hit on everybody, male and female—I find it outrageous to hear Naomi cry wolf. After having Bloom to her candlelit apartment and sharing a bottle of booze, what did she expect? Her latent outrage and cries of injustice undermine all the legitimate and wrenching cases of sexual and emotional abuse that merit serious investigation.
Heidi Gifford, Manhattan
If Naomi Wolf’s current accusations against Harold Bloom are true, then twenty years ago, she compromised her ethical principles and the well-being of her sisters for the sake of self-advancement. And if they are false, then she is doing as much today. But having had twenty years to think it over, the best alternative course of action Ms. Wolf can come up with is “to get a good lawyer.” Let me suggest something better: After backing away in shock, lock eyes with the man and say, earnestly and with indignation, “Professor Bloom, don’t do that!” In contrast to letting a lawyer handle it, such a course of action is proportionate, compassionate, and remarkably effective in resolving the problem, to the good of all concerned. I admit it’s how few young women would react, unless they have been brought up to think and act this way. That’s why I waited two days to write this letter, and not twenty years.
M. Kary, Montreal, Canada
One does sympathize with Naomi Wolf for the intrusions of Harold Bloom. But Yale also deserves some sympathy. After 250 years, the university made the mistake of admitting women—and that’s when this sort of trouble began.
A. W. Douglas, Winnetka, Ill.
If you can figure out how to get into Yale, certainly by your senior year you can figure out how to fend off a tipsy, horny man. God knows, I’m no apologist for the craven idiots guys can be, but give me a royal break. I think Naomi Wolf has too much free time.
Gigi Anders, Hackensack, N.J.
Hand Of Time
So, twenty years ago, Harold Bloom puts his hand on Naomi Wolf’s thigh—quelle horreur!—and the sin goes unpunished. To retaliate, the solipsistic Ms. Wolf writes a Zola-like piece to redress this perceived, but by now ancient, wrong. All of which begs the question, just who is the victim here?
Mindy G. Alter, Toronto, Canada
Naomi Wolf’s experience in 1983, as harrowing as it may have been, is not what Yale is like today. She entered a Yale still grappling with the court-ordered creation of a much unwanted committee, a Yale still under the auspices of an administration made up of men who said things in the pages of the New York Times like “if women students aren’t smart enough to know how to outwit some obnoxious professor, they shouldn’t be here in the first place.” At today’s Yale, a professor who sleeps with a student, or even attempts to, will lose his or her job; several have in the years I have been here. At today’s Yale, anyone who wishes to inquire about how a specific complaint would be handled can call a member of the Grievance Committee, which has undergraduates who sit on it. Ms. Wolf complains that grievance procedures are difficult to access since they are hidden somewhere in the Yale College dean’s office. Of course, she doesn’t know that they are also given to every student on matriculation and sent to undergraduate mailboxes once a year. In the end, no administrative board can dictate society, nor can it force people to change. The “old boy” network still does have some remnants here, and I have encountered faculty (and students) who hold opinions very much like those held by the administration in the eighties. Ms. Wolf concludes that the saddest part of her experience with Yale is that “if a Yale undergraduate came to me today with a bad secret to tell, I still could not urge her to speak up confidently to those tasked with educating, supporting, and mentoring her.” As a coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center, I am one of “those tasked with educating, supporting, and mentoring” students. So, perhaps Ms. Wolf would actually classify me as part of the problem. It is my job to tell students where to go when they have “bad secrets to tell,” and I do urge them to speak up confidently. There is a reason why I have this responsibility and Naomi Wolf does not: It is because I live, study, and learn here.
Cyd Cipolla, New Haven, Conn.
Troubled And . . .
Harold Bloom hit it right on the head when he stated that Naomi Wolf was “a deeply troubled girl.” When a professor says that he will review your poetry “over a glass of Amontillado”—duhit’s time to say thanks but no thanks. Was she really that surprised that he made an advance? My guess is, there’s more to this story than she is letting on, and somebody is not taking her medication.
Jonathan Shaatal, Staten Island
If Harold Bloom placed his hand on Naomi Wolf’s thigh and responded to her retching by leaving with the parting shot “You are a deeply troubled girl,” she is far too generous in saying his “demons are no more demonic than those of any other complex human being’s.” It was a demeaning grope, and Bloom’s response was a dismissive insult. Many complex people never feel like behaving so badly, let alone sink to actually doing it.
Edward P. Tryon, Manhattan