Yale settles sexual-harassment suit

After three years, Sally Greenhouse’s legal battle is over at last.

Greenhouse, who filed a Title IX suit against the University in 2005 claiming she was dismissed from the Yale School of Drama in retaliation for reporting an incident of sexual harassment, tenaciously pursued her case until Yale settled out of court last month. Provisions of the settlement stipulated that the University would pay her lawyer $10,000 to cover her legal fees but not admit any wrongdoing.

According to Greenhouse, who was 49 at the time, the incident began in an improvisation and cooperation workshop sponsored by the School of Drama. On stage, the instructor asked Greenhouse and two younger male students to improvise a skit he entitled “Rock Out with your Cock Out,” she said. Greenhouse became uncomfortable and left the workshop after the students began to mimic masturbation with hand gestures, she said.

“I was deeply offended and ashamed of what had taken place with the encouragement of this instructor in what was supposed to be a class on collaboration,” Greenhouse told the News in an interview last week.

Greenhouse filed a complaint with the school’s administration for which, she said, she was officially warned and eventually dismissed from the school. She filed a suit under a Title IX violation.

The University, for its part, has no qualms with Greenhouse’s dismissal and the settlement, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said.

“The University is pleased with the outcome,” he said. “We view it as a validation of the drama school’s careful evaluation of students.”

Drama professor David Chambers, who teaches in the directing program in which Greenhouse was enrolled, testified that the “rock out with your cock out” incident happened and that it played a part in her dismissal, said John Williams, Greenhouse’s attorney.

“He testified that he thought she showed poor judgment in treating that incident as though its effect on her was important and that he did not think there was anything wrong with the professor having encouraged the incident,” Williams said.

When the judge offered a settlement of $10,000, both parties accepted. The question has now become one of spin, with both the University and Greenhouse claiming victory.

The official court statement signed by Greenhouse read: “I acknowledge that the claims I made in this matter were disputed and doubtful, and the payment of $10,000.00 toward my attorney’s fees does not represent an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the party of Yale University.”

Although Greenhouse signed the statement, which said Yale had done no wrong, she and Williams argue that the School of Drama was unhappy with the outcome.

Although the Yale Office of the General Counsel ordered the acceptance of the settlement, Yale School of Drama Dean James Bundy was obviously opposed and upset, Williams said. Greenhouse agrees.

“If you had seen the look on Bundy’s face during the plans for settlement,” she said, “there would have been no question in your mind whatsoever who had lost this case.”

Bundy declined to comment for this article.

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