The article, “Glee Club director resigned amid harassment charges,” which ran on December 5, 2002, lacked sufficient information to present an adequately balanced account of the Grievance Board proceedings involving former Glee Club director David Connell, in part because it was based primarily on reporting traceable back to a single source. The News retracts all portions of the story which purport to objectively describe the circumstances surrounding Mr. Connell’s departure from Yale in the spring of 2002.
Dear Mr. Connell,
On behalf of all current members of the Yale Daily News, we write to apologize for the story, “Glee Club director resigned amid harassment charges,” of December 5, 2002, and for any personal or professional harm this piece has caused you. The News deeply regrets that the article, because it purports to objectively account for proceedings of the Yale College Grievance Committee and the circumstances leading up to those proceedings based on the testimony of a single source, has had such severe and unwarranted consequences for you. As co-Presidents of the Yale Daily News, we aim now to issue a sincere apology and to provide you with the opportunity to respond to our treatment of your story.
We have issued a retraction for all parts of the article that report on the events surrounding your departure from Yale in the spring of 2002. We have spoken with the reporter, the editors and other members of the management of the News, and we take personal responsibility for the errors in judgment and reporting that we made. We hope, with this letter, to take a further step toward remedying this situation.
We would like further to add that your response to these events, your calm and your efforts to turn even this into a teaching experience, are most generous and most admirable. We want to thank you for your patience over the last year and we ask that you take this letter as a genuine apology and a commitment to seeing that similar errors are not made in the pages of the News in the future.
Editor in Chief
Personal Statement by David Connell
“To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth.”
— Rabindranath Tagore
On April 15, 2002, a complaint of sexual harassment was filed against me through the Yale College Dean’s Office. A second complaint followed on April 19, 2002. I was notified of those complaints immediately upon their receipt, and within a week had made formal replies to both. The Sexual Harassment Grievance Board convened on April 30, 2002 to hear testimony from the two grievants, myself, and from a fourth person. The following week, on Tuesday, May 7, 2002, I was placed on an administrative leave of absence and instructed not to be in communication with members of the Yale Glee Club. I understood it to be essential to my continuing employment to follow those instructions, and remained out of contact with the membership of the group throughout the following three months, until Yale and I parted ways on July 31, 2002. When I was placed on leave, I inquired as to whether I should take these orders to be punitive and was told that this was not a punitive but a procedural measure. During the three months that passed between the hearings of April 30 and my resignation on July 31, the board heard testimony on only one other occasion, when four witnesses were heard after the group had returned from the tour to Africa. The impression give by the article that there was a lengthy and deep investigation is patently false, yet understandable since I myself believed it to be true for much of that time.
There were only two students who filed complaints against me; the article itself acknowledges that they were both former members of the group. There were only two students to leave the group in the 2001-2002 season, and thus their identities are now known to nearly everyone involved in the case. Nonetheless, I will continue to protect their privacy by referring to the, as I have all along, as “grievant no. 1” and “grievant no. 2.” Base both on internal evidence of the article itself and on the corroboration of this fact by the writing of the article (during her telephone interview of me, Monday, December 2, 2002), I assert that “a witness,” whose unsubstantiated words are relied on throughout the article, is in fact “grievant no. 1.” The “witness” makes statements throughout the article that speak for the matter of the grievances and the content of the board’s findings, which statements can only be made by those privy to the documentation: the Yale College Dean’s Office, the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, the grievants, and the accused. Frances Z. Brown, the then-President of the Glee Club, has provided a statement outlining a sequence of events that provide reasons for the departure of this pair of students from the group. Omission of this information from the article implies that the students resigned from the group because of alleged sexual harassment; I contend that this is not the case. Having resigned from the group, the pair waited several months before filing harassment charges; the result of that wait was to ensure my absence both from the commencement weekend and from the Africa tour.
The “witness” makes several claims without any burden of proof, including the following:
a. that “there have been many, many, students who came forward and spoke to the board”. Although the web postings offered by the Yale Daily News in connection with this article would have been a perfect forum for such students to come forward, anonymously, and register their complaints, and although I believe the “witness” was indeed waiting for that to happen, it did not happen. Many of the signed (supportive) posts were removed immediately by the YDN. Those who know the grievants believe that their voices are to be heard in many of the anonymous (unsupportive) posts that remain on the website to this date. I invite any students who have for whatever reasons had any concerns whatever about me or my behavior to contact me directly and express those concerns.
b. “at least two club officers testified against Connell.” One officer and one former officer were indeed interviewed by the board, but the former officer was in fact “grievant no. 1” (who was in fact “witness”), a person of many hats. Whether the testimony of the other person was “against” Connell is a matter of judgment; again, the substance of that testimony was available only to the parties in the complaint. The fact that this person had actually testified was not known even to this person’s closest colleagues within the organization until some time after the publication of the article (this is confirmed by an erroneous statement in the letter to the editor by Frances Brown). I am still waiting for this person to make any statement one way or the other about the process and this person’s involvement in it.
c. “Connell was preferential toward the homosexual male members of the group.” This simply cannot stand scrutiny. If anything, I kept a greater distance between myself and the other gay men in the group.
d. “the students making the accusation received threatening letters.” Let them prove it; this kind of defamatory statement is easy to make when you know you will not be expected to produce any evidence to this effect. I will state unequivocally that, according to their own expressed wishes, I have had no contact with them of any kind, directly or indirectly, since February 2002 when they resigned from the group. The regular members of the Glee Club, interviewed for this article, say themselves that they had little idea what was going on, even months after the fact. I was sent a copy of a letter from a person who describes herself as their former best friend, in which she said she would never speak to them again if they went through with this act of revenge. I suppose that could be characterized as a threat, if one were of such a mind.
Throughout the second half of the article, reference is made to a “senior.” Frank Chen has come forward and identified himself with that person; Matthew Chu has come forward to give his own account of a hike he and I took years ago. Those letters are included here. If I may speak for him based on his correspondence with me, Frank is angry with everyone involved including himself and me, and at the time of the writing of the article, he was angry because he felt that some people knew what had happened to me, yet he had been kept in the dark. It is unfortunate that his circle of friends included at least one of the persons who made sure I would not be staying at the university.
Last December I reacted to this article with relief, knowing that it was so journalistically irresponsible that no real media would ever touch it. Unfortunately, I seem to have underestimated the way in which the internet gives lasting power to such things, and particularly when combined with the ruthless way in which the YDN removed postings from its website that were actually signed by their authors, persons with some (though rarely complete) perspective on the case at hand. My general silence has been a by-product of the profound injury that I received through this process, and which will doubtless remain unhealed for some time to come. When the writer interview me, I said that she was missing the real story here, and I will now assert again that there is a story here, but it is not my story.
The Sexual Harassment Grievance Board process was described to me as “non-adversarial,” meaning, lawyers are not allowed; in fact, the accused is permitted to have another person (adviser) present during the proceeding, with two provisions: that the adviser is a Yale person and is not a lawyer. I discovered that “non-adversarial” also meant that the accused has no presumption of innocence, no right to call or question witnesses, no right to confront his or her accusers, in fact, none of the rights that a civil court would provide. Despite this, there was nothing about the handling of this cases that was not forensic, that is, judgment-oriented. The process was described to me as being “expeditious,” meaning, “we will work hard to resolve this issue quickly.” Meanwhile, three months passed with me and the Glee Club in limbo; many weeks went by during which no demonstrable activity was taking place in the Dean’s Office or with the Board. Those who know me may guess in some small measure what effect those months had on me. Finally, there was only one change in the wording of the grievance policies from that year to this: the imposition of a strict 45-day statute of limitations, which would have obviated the entire case against me in the first place.
In the week before the first grievance was filed against me, the April edition of The New Journal was piled into the entryways of the Yale Campus. On page 20 of that issue, Emily Brenning wrote, “Can Yale’s sexual harassment policy avert disaster?” The article cites the case of a friend at MIT who, feeling that the university had failed to support her in a sexual harassment case, had subsequently committed suicide. The second half of that article describes a case at Yale, earlier in that academic year, where SHGB chair Prof. Peter Parker and Dean Trachtenberg mediated between a complainant and an accused. I submit that nothing of this kind took place in my case. The New Journal article put Dean Trachtenberg and the committee in the position of proving that they take such cases seriously enough, looking for “satisfied customers” in the words of the Dean. This article localized a part of that atmosphere of fear that is still a feature of our society, but was particularly potent in April and May of 2002, with the scandals of the Catholic Church looming large. Rest assured that the Deans of Yale College were in no way going to risk joining Cardinal Law.
In the United States, efforts are being made daily to temper the “zero-tolerance” enthusiasm that throws innocent people in jail via the so-called patriot act. I enjoin those interested in justice to work in this area also, for accountability and transparency, and for the rights of the accused as well as the protection of the accusers.
David H. Connell
September 15, 2003
Letter to the Editor submitted by Frances Z. Brown
To the Editor:
The Yale Daily News story on the resignation of Yale Glee Club conductor David Connell (“Glee Club director resigned amid harassment charges,” 12/5), like the Yale College Dean’s Office kangaroo court it describes, showed an unconscionable lack of thoroughness in its investigation.
As president of last year’s YGC, I never spoke to the reporter, nor was I consulted by by the Dean’s Office; neither were the four other senior officers who participated in the events surrounding the two plaintiffs’ departures from the group. This omission is crucial because we five are able to give “witness” to the direct link between the fact that one plaintiff was blocked from the YGC summer tour to Africa, and his subsequent sudden ire towards the group in general and David Connell in particular. It further omits to mention that the two plaintiffs, rather than being independent purported victims, are longtime boyfriends.
Plaintiff One was not allowed to go on the Glee Club’s much-anticipated Africa tour because of health reasons. That decision was made in January by a group of seven people: the three Africa tour managers, the YGC general manager, myself (all Yale seniors), David Connell, and the YGC administrative associate. Plaintiff One was understandably angered and quit the group; Plaintiff Two followed shortly thereafter. In his letter of resignation, Plaintiff One stated that although he was enraged by the decision of all the officers involved, he held David Connell “ultimately responsible.”
This piece of evidence, about a possible link between the Africa tour decision and the two plaintiffs’ fury, was apparently missed altogether by the reporter’s interviews, which did not include anyone from last year’s senior leadership. Meanwhile, the majority of the coverage of the case against Dr. Connell stemmed from two “witnesses” who were, in fact, the accusers.
But even worse, this evidence was summarily dismissed by members of the Yale College Dean’s Office. I, and others, repeatedly brought up this link with Richard Brodhead, Betty Trachtenberg, and Phillip Greene, yet the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board never heard our testimony. This was indicative in the dealings of a board which lacked the most basic legal protections to ensure a just outcome: an objective standard for evidence, the ability to call witness, the right to transparent proceedings, and the presumption of innocence.
Frances Brown ’02
December 5, 2002
Letter to the Editor submitted by Matthew Chu
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the article titled “Glee Club director resigned amid harassment charges” (12/5). An unnamed senior, who is a friend of mine, was quoted as saying: “He [Professor Connell] used to ask people to go on hiking trips. He took a hiking trip with a member of the Glee Club and tried to seduce him by putting his head on his lap.” I have confirmed with him that the quotation is directly and solely in regard to my experience with Connell. My friend has taken a story I related to him and distorted it. The atmosphere of ignorance that has characterized Connell’s resignation has facilitated the perpetuation of such rumors and lies. My friend has stated to me that he did not intend for the newspaper to interpret his comments in the manner in which they were expressed. Here I seek to tell the truth as I experienced it.
At the conclusion of sophomore year I was feeling very stressed out by academic pressures. Connell had shown me in the past that he was a rare quality of teacher because he genuinely cares for the welfare of his students. He was the one adult figure on campus who I felt comfortable talking with about my feelings. From our conversation I gained a greater perspective on what I really wanted from my studies in the context of my life goals. He also suggested that we go on a hike in Sleeping Giant Park during finals week to give me a break from the Yale campus.
The Sunday morning hike was relaxing and the everyday conversation freed my mind from stress. No seductive acts of any sort were initiated by Connell. His behavior toward me was that of a caring teacher.
From talking with my friend who was quoted in the article, I have discovered that he took my story out of perspective and distorted it to fit into the rumor-mill environment that the Yale administration has created. Connell is the kind of teacher who a student can count on when needing help or mentorship. I thank him for his guidance.
Matthew Chu ’03
December 5, 2002
Letter to the Editor submitted by Frank Chen
To the Editor:
I was the unnamed senior quoted in the article “Glee Club Director Resigned Amid Harassment Charges” (12/5). I’ve been insistent on finding answers because I have been unable to resolve my feelings for David Connell and the Glee Club as a result of these past months of confusion. I’ve felt angry at our officers and my friends for not supplying answers, upset at the administration for its methods in dealing with Grievance, and most of all, frustrated that we could not, at times, perform up to Connell’s standards while in Africa. The emphasis of what I disclosed to the Yale Daily News was that there was an unavailability of information. Other Glee Club members share these feelings and I don’t believe it inappropriate to express them publicly. What some may not know is that I also described exactly what Frances Brown published in her column.
However, the basic information regarding the hiking trip incident was not incorrect. I verified the information again with my friend, Matt Chu ’03, that he did go on a hiking trip with Connell and that Connell did put his head on Chu’s lap while he sat down. Now, I did not intend for the article to use this story to suggest that Connell is guilty of sexual harassment, especially because this instance was not mentioned in any hearing. Furthermore, I should have allowed Chu to provide his own interpretation of the event. I wanted only to say that having a head on a lap is not normally part of a student-teacher relationship in any context.
It is quite obvious there is more to the story than just a simple accusation of sexual harassment and it is impossible to distinguish credible information from rumor. What is clear, however, is that Grievance procedures shield the accuser of any responsibility. Disappointingly, I see now that discussion of these events is not helpful one year after any alleged conflict.
Frank Chen ’03
December 5, 2002
Letter to the Editor submitted by Ellen Espenschied
To the Editor:
The article in the December 5th YDN has some serious factual errors — most likely the result of relying on information supplied by unreliable sources. The fact that the identity of the article’s two primary sources was obscured (they are identified only as “the senior” and “the witness,” though the article does not explain the reason for this anonymity) reveals them to be two of the disgruntled students who were instrumental in engineering the director’s removal.
I have worked with David Connell for eight of the ten year he spent as director of the chorus, and have always known him to deal with students (including emotionally unstable ones such as his accuser) with the utmost in professionalism. The accusation against Professor Connell was made by an individual who bore a grudge against the leadership of the Glee Club after he was denied the privilege of touring with the chorus.
The decision to exclude this singer from the 2002 Africa tour due to medical reasons was made by the leadership of the chorus at the advice of University Health Services. After he was informed that he would not be allowed to accompany the chorus on tour, this student state on several occasions that he would seek revenge against the leadership of Glee Club. He waited until a few weeks before the tour was to begin, then filed his complaint, timing his accusation deliberately to derail the tour.
While the decision to exclude a student from tour may have been wrong, it does not justify a false allegation that had irrevocable consequences on the teaching career of a brilliant professor.
The Grievance Board is run by the Yale College Dean’s Office, a body with no oversight from the rest of the administration. Despite the obviously spurious nature of the accusation, the administration prevented Professor Connell from completing the tour. Procedural errors abounded, and the administration made no attempt to resolve the issue in a timely fashion, choosing instead to hold Professor Connell’s status in limbo for months. The result was a miscarriage of justice which is apparent to the over one thousand students and alumni who worked with Professor Connell during his ten-year career with the Glee Club.
The mishandling of the grievance by the Yale College Dean’s Office, which resulted in the departure of a very capable and ethical professor from the university, point to a need for a review of the rights of the accused. As the process stands now, a disgruntled student can point the finger at any member of the faculty and, if they have a co-conspirator or two, can be virtually certain that the faculty member will be forced out within a few months.
The statement that “many, many students” spoke to the Grievance Board about Professor Connell is deliberately misleading. While it is true that many students attempted to speak to the Board, the article’s anonymous source failed to say that all but two of them were seeking to refute the allegations, but were turned away.
Many students went to the Dean’s Office and the Grievance Board to voice their support for David Connell and to explain the reason for the groundless complaint. One was told, “I think we know your opinions. If we need you, we’ll call you.” Another was told that after the tour, there would be an opportunity to speak on David Connell’s behalf — but after the tour, the members of the Grievance Board were on vacation, so there was no chance to address them before their decision was handed down.
The one attention-seeking student who approached them with “dirt” was promptly seen and his statement taken, despite not having been called as a witness by either the accuser or the accused.
As the substitute conductor of the chorus during the tour of Africa, I experience firsthand the effect that this had on the morale of the chorus. It was very disheartening that David Connell was not on the tour, and it was worrisome to most because they did not know why. Despite these circumstances, this skilled group of Yale musicians did an excellent job of conveying their music to the people of five different countries of the African continent. This is a testament to the quality instruction and preparation of the music that the Glee Club had received from its director, David Connell.
On this topic too the “witness” cited in the article provided misinformation: the chorus sang well because they are talented; because the African audiences deserved it; and because they had been inspired by David Connell’s masterful leadership over the previous academic year.
Ellen Espenschied ’97, MUS ’99
Director, Yale Freshman Chorus
December 5, 2002
Letter to the Editor submitted by Chaya Halberstam
To the Editor:
There are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, the YDN found it acceptable to print on the story told by those who accused Dr. Connell of misconduct, without even acknowledging that other testimony was provided which disputed their accounts of the facts. I am one of the people who was called as a material witness to incidents of harassment that were alleged to have taken place. I provided detailed testimony stating that I saw nothing that would constitute a sexual advance, let alone harassment. I was never contacted by the YDN for comment.
The real issue here is the failure of not only the YDN but the Yale Grievance Board itself to thoroughly investigate this matter and uncover the truth. Like any corporation, Yale has less interest in pursuing justice than it does in shielding itself from lawsuits and bad publicity. What I found in my own dealings with the grievance board is that the process lacks basic legal protections which help ensure a just outcome: the right to face one’s accuser, the right to call witnesses in one’s own defense, the right to open and transparent proceedings, a presumption of innocence, and an objective standard of evidence (such as “beyond a reasonable doubt”) necessary for a guilty finding. I suggest that Yale College students refuse to believe unsubstantiated, defamatory claims of unnamed individuals and instead demand transparency from the Yale College administration regarding these matters that affect us all.
Chaya Halberstam GRD ’03
December 5, 2002
GLEE CLUB DIRECTOR RESIGNED AMID HARASSMENT CHARGES
University has been largely silent about the investigation, club members say
By Emily Anthes
Yale Glee Club Director David Connell MUS ’91 said he resigned for personal reasons last July after two students filed complaints against him with the Yale College Grievance Board for Student Complaints of Sexual Harassment.
The University has declined to tell Glee Club members about the charges or the investigation, Glee Club president Julia Franklin said.
In addition to the two students who filed official complaints against Connell, a third student testified that he had also been a victim of harassment, but did not file an official complaint, a witness involved in the proceedings said.
The witness said the grievance board found evidence that Connell had behaved inappropriately and was unfit to teach at the University.
Connell declined to comment on the nature of the complaints or on the grievance board’s findings.
“What people know of me from my actions, my words, from me, is who I am,” Connell said. “If they know me to be a good person, that’s great. If they think otherwise, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Connell has three graduate degrees from the Yale School of Music and was also an assistant professor at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music at the Divinity School.
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, who is a member of the grievance board, declined to be specific, but said Connell’s resignation was of a “personal nature.”
Many unconfirmed rumors about the events leading up to Connell’s departure are still circulating throughout the group. University administrators did not inform members of the club about the allegations or the board’s findings.
In an e-mail to club members Wednesday, however, Connell attempted to clarify the circumstances surrounding both his departure and his silence. The Yale Daily News obtained a copy of the message Wednesday night.
Behind closed doors
One student resigned from the Glee Club in January and filed a complaint with the grievance board in February, the witness said. In Wednesday’s e-mail, Connell said the complaint was filed in mid-April.
In February, a second student quit and then filed a complaint of his own, the witness said. The students complained of offenses ranging from unwanted sexual advances to groping, the witness said.
The grievance board encouraged the students to press forward with the case, the witness said.
“If no one makes a complaint, there’s nothing [the grievance board] can do about it,” he said. “There have been many, many students who came forward and spoke to the board [about Connell], but none of them went through with it.”
The grievance board can only launch an investigation if the student who brings forth the complaint is willing to identify himself to both the board and the accused, according to the grievance board Web site. The board has no official punitive powers, but prepares a report outlining the findings of its investigation, which is then presented to Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead.
Connell became the interim director of the Yale Glee Club in 1992 and took over as full-time director in 1993. Last year was Connell’s 10th anniversary directing the Glee Club, and he was honored at the Glee Club’s annual singing dinner and at a party given by current and former Glee Club members, Franklin said.
At least two club officers who had witnessed what they deemed to be sexual harassment testified against Connell, the witness said. A senior Glee Club member confirmed that students appeared before the grievance board and said he had spoken to one of the witnesses about the proceedings.
“It’s obvious to me that there was sexual misconduct there,” the senior said. “We all knew that David was very close to people. He was often a little too close. He’s definitely been much too friendly. With me and with other people.”
The senior explained further that Connell would invite students on seemingly inappropriate excursions.
“He used to ask people to go on hiking trips. He took a hiking trip with a member of Glee Club and tried to seduce him by putting his head on his lap. That led a lot of people to think something was wrong there,” he said.
The witness and the senior both said Connell was preferential toward the homosexual male members of the group and that he would sometimes bring them to his house.
Franklin, who was a winter tour manager last year, said she was unaware that Glee Club members felt harassed and she did not think students had brought these concerns to Glee Club officers.
“As far as I know, no complaints were ever expressed to the officers,” she said. “If Glee Club members felt harassed, it never came to us.”
Several Glee Club members said it was not always clear whether Connell’s behavior qualified as sexual harassment. They also said Connell was well-loved and that students loved the culture of intimacy he promoted.
“David having a student sitting on his lap wasn’t considered weird,” the witness said. “People loved that he was physically affectionate.”
Other Glee Club members, including some who had unsuccessfully sought intimate relationships with Connell, testified on Connell’s behalf, citing his refusal to begin a relationship as evidence of his moral character, the witness said. He also said some Glee Club members wrote letters to the grievance board on Connell’s behalf, but Connell said he was unaware of any letters the board may have received.
“David Connell is — from what I’ve seen — the most loved teacher at this entire university,” Franklin said. “He was kind of the true professor, the kind you look for when you come to college. His door was always open, there were no such thing as office hours.”