Sitting on a sofa in the lounge of the Women’s Center on Friday, the School of Management professor Constance Bagley opened up to a handful of undergraduates about her lawsuit against the University and her perception of the climate for women at Yale.
In May 2012, Bagley learned she had not been reappointed to her position as professor of the practice of law and management at the SOM. After working to overturn that decision for 18 months, Bagley filed a lawsuit on Dec. 20 against the University, SOM Dean Edward Snyder, SOM Deputy Dean Andrew Metrick and SOM professor Douglas Rae, claiming she was not reappointed because of her gender and age. She also accused Rae, with whom she co-taught the course “State and Society,” of subjecting her to repeated acts of discrimination.
Almost two months later, the respondents have not formally replied to the suit and have obtained an extension until March 3 to do so, Bagley told the News. As much as Bagley would like a speedy resolution, she said the process might take longer than she expected.
Still, Bagley said she hopes her lawsuit draws attention to the issues of equality and respect and improve the SOM community.
“My hope is that we figure out a way to make sure that SOM is all that it should be, and that it lives up to its mission of training leaders for business and society,” Bagley said.
Bagley said her suit is about more than just tenure and female professors at the SOM — it is about the need for dialogue in many other fields where issues of equality and respect persist, she said.
Bagley talked about the situation of women at other schools — as well as women’s experiences at Yale College in regards to sexual misconduct and Title IX.
“[This issue] brings up the tightrope that women have to walk, that individuals of color have to walk, that anyone who is not in the main structure of power has to walk,” Bagley said.
Though Bagley referenced the “chilly environment for women” that the committee appointed by University President Salovey to investigate Bagley’s case identified at the SOM, she would not speak further on the situation of women at the SOM currently during her talk at the Women’s Center. All the evidence of offensive comments and actions are in the committee report, she said, adding that she has also witnessed similar problems at other schools such as Harvard.
While she said the SOM has a higher percentage of women graduating with honors than Stanford does, Bagley added her experience at Stanford was not negative. Her time spent teaching at Harvard Business School, however, was marked by several acts of discrimination — and not only from men.
“Unfortunately women can be the worst critics of other women,” she said. “At HBS women students give much worse ratings to female professors than they do to males.”
A lack of communication is often at the root of the problem, Bagley said, adding that the best way to handle instances of sexual misconduct is to have more open dialogue about intimacy and relationships.
“I am a big believer that people do better when they think out loud — I certainly know I do,” she said. “We need to create a safe place where people can talk about their insecurities.”
Dialogue does not have to begin with the premise that males in a community — or even respondents in a Title IX complaint — are necessarily in the wrong, Bagley said. Rather, people should start to speak their minds on the assumption that each person is acting in good faith, she said.
Students interviewed said they appreciated Bagley’s honesty and courage.
Will Kronick ’14 said he enjoyed Bagley’s talk because it brought to light issues that are important for the entire Yale community.
“It gave a chance to [look into] something that is very important,” he said. “We are trying to create inclusive leadership [in the world]. If we are going to do that, we should start by doing it at our own university.”
Christian Soler ’16 said the most powerful part of the talk was that it did not seem contrived — but rather motivated by Bagley’s desire to make Yale a better place.
Bagley said she will persevere and hopes to stay in New Haven regardless of the outcome of the suit.
“I promised my son that we will stay in our house in Woodbridge — if I have to clean toilets, I’ll clean toilets. Seriously, I’ll do what it takes,” she said.
Bagley began working at Yale in 2007.