SOM professor sues University

Alleging gender and age discrimination, a professor has filed a suit against the University and three high-profile faculty members in the School of Management.

Constance Bagley, a professor in the practice of law and management at the School of Management, claims in the suit that she was not reappointed to her professorship in May 2012 because of her gender and age. Furthermore, Bagley asserts that while co-teaching the course “State and Society” with SOM professor Douglas Rae, she was subjected to repeated acts of discrimination from her male peer.

A complaint filed by Bagley against the University, SOM Dean Edward Snyder, SOM Deputy Dean Andrew Metrick and Rae lists 18 counts of discrimination. The Dec. 20 complaint seeks monetary damages for Bagley and asks the court to urge the University to cease gender and age discrimination. Bagley also claims in the complaint that gender animus is a pervasive issue at Yale, and that this hostile climate is to blame for Bagley’s wrongful treatment.

“A culture exists within Yale in which strong, assertive and professionally accomplished women who are not stereotypically female in their appearance, behavior and attitudes are viewed negatively because they do not meet certain gender expectations by the dominant male leadership,” the complaint reads.

The suit comes after some 18 months of efforts by Bagley to overturn the decision not to renew her professorship, during which three separate committees were convened to examine the process through which she was not reappointed.

“I did this as a last resort,” Bagley told the News.

Snyder, Metrick and Rae all declined to comment on the lawsuit.

University spokespeople, however, deny that gender or age discrimination played a role in the decision not to reappoint Bagley and appear poised to mount a full legal defense against the professor.

“Yale believes the lawsuit to be without merit and will vigorously defend itself and the individuals named,” University Spokesman Tom Conroy told the News. “The decision by the School of Management not to renew Professor Bagley’s appointment as Professor in the Practice was made following comprehensive review.”

HOSTILITY IN THE CLASSROOM

In the complaint, Bagley writes that she was victim of repeated gender hostility at SOM, which one report — commissioned by the University to examine Bagley’s case — described as a “chilly environment for women.”

The complaint alleges that in 2012, Rae began making repeated derogatory comments about Bagley and treating her “with open hostility and disrespect both inside and outside the classroom.”

Rae’s comments about Bagley came in addition to other actions betraying a gender animus described in the complaint. After Rae told the “State and Society” class that he had good hearing except when it came to the “shrill, high-pitched voice of his wife,” one student, in a written evaluation, complained, “[we] are not in the 1950s teaching to an exclusively male audience anymore.”

Bagley asserts that Rae’s actions indicate a broader cultural problem at the School of Management, where less than 10 percent of tenured faculty is women and no senior women sit on any faculty committees. The last woman to receive tenure at SOM did so in 2002.

“Professor Bagley became the object of gender stereotyping,” the complaint reads. “She didn’t fit the Yale vision of the young male SOM professor or the more passive subordinate female professor who would bend to their will.”

At least some of the discrimination, according to the complaint, stemmed from her central role as an advocate for women at the University. As a member of the University-Wide Committee for Sexual Misconduct (UWC), she was one of the primary framers of a new University policy on the issue.

In the spring of 2012, Bagley voiced concerns to UWC Chair Michael Della Rocca that her efforts were a cause of the gender animus she faced at SOM. Furthermore, she expressed concern that her advocacy might negatively impact her reappointment to her professorship, but Della Rocca took no action.

Della Rocca declined to comment for this article.

CONFLICTING REPORTS

The complaint asserts that the instances of discrimination came to a head in May 2012, when Bagley’s reappointment for her professorship came up for review before SOM’s Board of Permanent Officers (BPO). The BPO was responsible for reviewing the recommendation of a committee, formed in October 2011 and chaired by professor Paul Bracken, charged with examining Bagley’s work since her first appointment in 2007. The Bracken Committee report unanimously recommended that Bagley be reappointed.

Furthermore, according to Bagley, she had previously been assured by Metrick that her contract would be renewed for at least five years.

The BPO’s eventual decision, though, did not line up with the Bracken Committee’s recommendations — a result that Bagley’s suit ascribes to two reasons.

First, Bagley claims, some faculty on the BPO regarded her as too aggressive because of her efforts in early 2012 to apply for the Nierenberg Chair of Corporate Governance. The suit claims that after Snyder rejected her for the chair, he said he would “bring in someone who would ‘dominate’ her if she continued to pursue the chair.”

Second, Bagley claims, Rae falsely suggested to members of the BPO that there were problems with Bagley’s teaching in the “State and Society” course.

Snyder’s notification that the BPO had voted against reappointment came as a complete surprise to Bagley, whom the report claims “had never been advised of any deficiencies in her teaching, scholarship or commitment before the vote.”

After the decision, Bagley was replaced in the “State and Society” course by professor Ian Shapiro and senior lecturer David Bach. Rae also continued teaching the course.

MONTHS OF REVIEW

Over the next 18 months, the case was reviewed by several faculty committees after Bagley challenged the BPO’s initial decision. The third committee to review the case, the Harte Committee, appointed by then-Provost Peter Salovey in mid-2012, found that Bagley had been subjected to “inappropriate comments and behaviors based on gender.” Furthermore, the committee found that SOM had violated promises made in 2008 — when Bagley was told that her reappointment would be based solely on her performance — by then-SOM Dean Joel Podolny.

The Harte Committee further found that had the same standards used to evaluate Bagley in 2008 been used in 2012, she likely would have been reappointed. Those findings led Salovey, in an April 2013 letter, to tell Bagley that the standards used to review her reappointment were not sufficiently clear, and that further review of her teaching in the “State and Society” course would be required.

That note led to another committee, chaired by Professor Edieal Pinker, purposed with examining Bagley’s teaching. Although the findings of that report remain confidential, Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler told Bagley that the report found her teaching and other efforts at the University to be “exemplary.”

Nevertheless, after examining the relevant information, on Oct. 21, 2013, the BPO voted again not to reappoint Bagley.

Bagley said that although she is prepared to litigate her case in court, she is also willing to considering settling with the University and the other defendants. Because of the extensive review process, Bagley will remain at Yale through the end of 2014. Despite her ongoing dispute with the University, she will be teaching a course titled “Managing Legal and Regulatory Complexity” this term.

A previous version of this article stated that there were no women on any SOM faculty committees. There are, in fact, no senior women on any SOM faculty committees.

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