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The Silent Treatment


In 1996, the Yale Daily News reported that the Grievance Board had found that assistant math professor Jay Jorgenson had consensual sex with a freshman whom he was grading. The board recommended that Jorgenson not teach undergraduates that term. But Dean Brodhead allowed him to continue teaching because, as he told the Yale Daily News, he “didn’t think it would be possible to find a replacement that quickly.” (The paper also reported that the head of the math department said no one had ever called to ask if there was someone else to teach the course.)

Until this point, Yale had informally discouraged sexual relationships between faculty and students, but after the Jorgenson case, which generated a lot of publicity, the university deemed such relationships a conflict of interest and decided to take a firmer stand: The Guide for Faculty, Students and Staff states clearly: “No teacher shall have a sexual relationship with a student over whom he or she has direct supervisory responsibilities.”

Another Yale alumna alerted me to the Kelly case, which was more serious. In 1999, Kathryn Kelly brought a civil action under Title IX against Yale, accusing it of “inadequately responding to her complaints regarding an incident of alleged sexual assault” by another student, Robert Nolan, who lived in the same dormitory.

After the assault, Kelly immediately filed a grievance, which eventually resulted in Nolan’s being required to take a leave of absence until Kelly’s expected graduation. But Kelly claimed that in the aftermath of the assault, the college was too slow to respond to her concerns—not least that she was living in the same place as, and attending a class with, her attacker. She also alleged that, in an open forum to discuss the attack with students, Dean Richard Wood defamed her by telling those gathered that what Nolan had done was “not legal rape.” Kelly was so distraught that she dropped out of her courses and eventually finished her studies late.

In March 2003, Judge Janet Hall permitted the matter to proceed to a trial, stating that a jury could find that “Yale’s failure to provide Kelly with accommodations, either academic, or residential, immediately following Nolan’s assault of her, was clearly unreasonable given all the circumstances of which it was aware.” Six months later, Yale settled for an undisclosed sum.

Stephanie Urie, a former graduate student at the Divinity School and now a hospice chaplain, filed her lawsuit against Yale just last month. Her most alarming allegation was that from 1997 onward, the Divinity School faculty had knowledge that the Reverend Gilbert Bond, an associate professor at the Divinity School and Urie’s mentor, “had engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment towards female students” but that they had failed to take “reasonable action to prevent the recurrence of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.” She also claimed Yale failed to protect her from Bond after she filed a grievance.

Bond denied the allegations to the Yale Daily News and also stated he was not her mentor, and a spokesman for Yale, Tom Conroy, said: “We don’t believe the allegations against Yale are supported by the facts and we trust that will be the judgment.”

According to Urie’s complaint, Bond took “advantage of the trust he had gained from her as her YDS mentor . . . and engaged in coercive sexual relations” with her and then “repeatedly engaged in intimidating behavior.”

When Urie filed her grievance, she claims, the academic dean of the Divinity School, David Bartlett, requested she write a statement that she learned was later shown to Bond. But Bond’s own statement, in contrast, was never disclosed to Urie.

She explained to Bartlett that, as cited in the complaint, she had a “justifiable fear” of Bond when she used the library or went to Divinity School events. The dean recommended she get police protection. The Yale police did offer to escort her to one destination, but suggested she stay off campus at night and, if she was still frightened, that she “run between buildings.”

Bond, when I called asking him earlier this month for his response to Urie’s story, said that he was still an associate professor at Yale. Not named as a defendant in Urie’s case, he denied her claims, saying, “we shared consensual, physical intimacies.”

“I exhausted every internal means for resolution,” says Urie, who is now also an affiliate of one of Yale’s residential colleges. “But not achieving that, I am taking this step in the hope that no one else will have the same array of problems and vulnerabilities. In spite of many people’s support, as it stands, the process adds insult to injury.” The case is pending; Yale’s response has not yet been filed.

Yale’s public face is not what it seems. Though the college Website now has a seemingly exemplary description of its grievance procedures, students reading the fine print will discover that a “full description of the way in which a specific complaint would be treated by the Board” is only “obtained from the Yale College Dean’s Office.” A trip that, for many, could be intimidating. A member of the grievance committee claims that information about the procedures is placed on dining tables annually. More than a month ago, I asked Brodhead to send me a copy, and he agreed. I have never received it.

I called the Yale Office of Public Affairs: I was writing a story about this issue, I said. “Harold Bloom?” asked press officer Gila Reinstein. “He hits on everybody!” She backpedaled: “ . . . in a bizarre way, I mean: ‘My child,’ ‘my dear’ . . . ” “This wasn’t that,” I said. “This was a hand on my thigh.” “I am sorry,” she said.

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