New York magazine published an article by Naomi Wolf ’84 on Monday in which she accuses Humanities and English professor Harold Bloom of sexually harassing her while he was her independent study advisor in 1983.
Wolf’s article, “The Silent Treatment,” describes her year-long interaction with the Yale administration after she decided to draw attention to her allegation. Wolf portrays Yale’s administration as unresponsive to her attempts to ensure that adequate channels exist now for addressing sexual harassment complaints.
“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,” Wolf said in the article’s conclusion. “I would, with a heavy heart, advise that young woman, for her own protection, to get a good lawyer.”
Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said Yale has appropriate methods for addressing sexual harassment complaints, but she said Wolf should have raised her allegation within the two-year statute of limitations that exists for such complaints.
“We do have rules that require that grievances be filed within a limited time period. They are intended to promote fairness,” Robinson said in an e-mail. “When time passes, memories fade, witnesses and evidence become unavailable, and these things make it much harder to determine the truth. Yale’s procedures are robust, and its students are routinely informed about them.”
Bloom declined to comment Monday.
The Hartford Courant reported on Friday that Bloom is withholding comments in case he decides to file an anti-defamation suit against Wolf.
Wolf, a feminist activist and former Rhodes Scholar, said in her article that she began to bring up her harassment allegations with administrative figures after Yale asked her to help with fund-raising efforts. She said she had approached the administration with her concerns about the University’s grievance procedures but “got nowhere.” She also mentions other examples of sexual harassment claims she says she does not believe the administration handled appropriately.
Yale President Richard Levin and Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead were unavailable for comment Monday night.
Jacqueline Byrne ’84, who said she was “acquainted” with Wolf but knew nothing of these allegations while at Yale, said she had never dealt with sexual harassment while she was an undergraduate. But she said she would have been unsure how to deal with such an issue if it had arisen.
“I never had trouble gaining access to the administration or talking to people, but I never had a sexual harassment claim either,” Byrne said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I did.”
In her article, Wolf describes the specific details of her allegation. After repeated efforts to meet with Bloom to discuss her poetry, Wolf said in her article that Bloom finally agreed to join her for dinner at her house and discuss her work “over a glass of Amontillado.” Wolf said Bloom made an advance after the end of dinner, leaning in close to her face and placing his hand on her thigh when she tried to present him with a manuscript of her poetry.
Wolf said in a statement issued Thursday that her article was not intended to imply that Bloom had sexually harassed her while he was writing a recommendation for her Rhodes Scholarship application. He wrote her a recommendation in 1983 before the alleged incident, and was not one of her referees when she was awarded the scholarship in 1985, she said.