Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Chair John Darnell resigned as chair and agreed to a one-year suspension from the Yale faculty after engaging in several violations of University policy, including maintaining an intimate relationship with a student under his direct supervision, Darnell said in an email sent to the department Tuesday afternoon.

Darnell’s other violations consisted of participating in the review of a faculty member with whom he had an intimate relationship and using his leadership role in Egyptology to cover up his illicit behavior, he wrote in his Tuesday email. Such actions are prohibited by the Yale University Faculty Handbook, which states that professors must avoid sexual relationships with students over whom they have “direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities.”

“[I] have violated Yale policies and the trust placed in me as a Yale faculty member,” Darnell wrote. “I have failed the University, my colleagues, and my students, and I am deeply sorry.”

University spokesman Tom Conroy declined to comment beyond Darnell’s notification to his department. Darnell could not be reached for further comment Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

In a Tuesday follow-up email to the department, University President Richard Levin said Director of Graduate Studies Eckart Frahm would serve as acting chair for the spring semester while Yale College Dean Mary Miller interviews members of the department to suggest a replacement for the next full term. Levin added that Frahm will assign new faculty advisers to each of the graduate students previously under Darnell’s supervision. Levin apologized to the department for conveying “such unsettling news.”

“I trust that faculty, staff, and students alike will pull together to ensure that the department’s educational and research programs move forward,” Levin said.

Darnell joined the Yale faculty as an assistant professor in 1998 and became professor of Egyptology in 2005. He has taught courses on “Egypt and Northeast Africa” and “Egyptian Coffin Texts,” and has also served as director of the Yale Egyptological Institute in Egypt.


  1. boogs

    So, for having an illicit relationship with a student, an inappropriate relationship with a fellow member of the faculty — and then trying to cover it all up — he gets a one-year suspension. Twelve months from now: back to the same-old six figure income. I see the community of psychopaths at Yale is still covering the asses of its own.

  2. nk9

    He was a scumbag when I was in his department years ago, and at least with this someone will be watching. Good riddance.

  3. cp

    The student never left, is now the faculty member in question and up for tenure herself in the same department. Much more to this story, hopefully it will all come out.

      • Goldie '08

        “When I first opened the door to Darnell’s office, I was greeted by strains of choral music and the strong scent of sherry”

        “‘Some people say I take the ‘assistant’ part of ‘assistant professor’ a little literally,’ he said with a smile.”


        • Foey

          Sadly, for some of us that already knew what was going on at the time, they already read that way when the article was written.

    • C.H.

      And the undergrad/grad/jrfaculty/up4tenure in question openly bragged during grad school that the arrangement described in this article was the best way to get ahead in academia. I trust someone is looking into this aspect of the story …

  4. Julia '09

    This kind of sham is why I will never donate a single penny to Yale. Both professors should be fired immediately.

    • gokie

      Not giving a “single penny” to Yale–forever–because of this instance of institutional corruption seems a bit unforgiving. I understand the outrage but not the punishment.

      • alum

        I’ll say this as a NELC grad–it is the most dysfunctional department in Yale, and that’s the reason I went elsewhere for graduate school.

        • Shaman

          You went elsewhere because you are a failure not because the department is dysfunctional. They have the brightest people at NELC, the best in the country, so this fling has nothing to do with the quality of the people there. Question the administration at Yale who allowed this relationship for years. Remember that the provost office reviews all the recruitment reports and signs all the faculty contracts. They are not that stupid to not notice that this Cleopatra was having something special with Mark Anthony since 2001, but they let it go.

          • alum

            Wow–that shows how out of touch you are. Maybe you should look into how many NELC grad students jump to other departments and how many don’t finish? I talked to a number of them who all said the same thing–don’t do your Ph.D. here.

          • liam

            Her hairdo is a 1920s hairstyle worn most famously by the American actress Louise Brooks. Even the way that Colleen Manassa poses in her photos is very reminiscent of Louise. Colleen probably thinks she’s some beautiful Hollywood starlet by sporting such a distinctive hairstyle. Has Colleen done anything in her life that is actually original? Or does she just plan on copying off of others or riding off the coat tails of Darnell for the rest of her life?

          • liam

            I am saying that she is not an original person in general. Her sense of personal style isn’t even unique, she copied it from women 90 years ago. Today’s younger generations may not be familiar with Hollywood actresses of the 1920s and may erroneously think that she invented a new fashion trend. Colleen is like the Lady Gaga of Egyptology. She reheats unused 1980s pop leftovers and tries to pass it off to the younger generations as new and original.

          • flulu

            It’s the same hairdo that his wife was sporting for years before he met Colleen. One has to wonder whether she was copying…or being molded. One man stuck in the 1920s, and two women too? Does not look like freewill to me.

          • alum

            Another proof of NELC’s dysfunction is that all the NELC faculty knew about this, but not one had enough respect for either Yale or NELC to ever say anything. Yup, quality people there.

          • Anne Bradley

            From reading this conversation, I see Shaman’s point. Basically everyone was apathetic and accepting and going about their academic pursuits, jumping over this inappropriate behavior. Yet, would this tolerated circumstance bring discredit to those students who work hard and participate in activities which Yale provides? The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. He makes a good point. Driving in your own lane does not require you to police others, so to speak. Lack of vigilance is why these two got away with their relationship for so long. Who is to blame for that? For some to now say that Yale University is a corrupted school because of this incident is ridiculous. I am on the outside looking in. So please keep that in consideration when I post. I just believe that Shaman has a good point. You are obviously aggravated to have her there. I just wonder why no one joined forces and have her removed in a diplomatic way, quietly yet surely.

  5. sept

    finally! took long enough for them to get called out on it. everyone in the department always knew – it’s not like they were discrete. maybe yale isnt such a corrupt place after all?

  6. Striking

    That the female is still employed is disgraceful. She’s as much to blame as he is regardless of the seniority issue. She knew what was at stake; she knew what she was doing and she knew the rules and knowingly violated them. She is not a victim, she’s the exact opposite and much worse. Dropping your skirt is not the way academia should be practiced as a student, as a professor, assistant professor.

    • ohno

      I’m sure the only reason she hasn’t resigned yet is because it’s still under review. I’m sure she’ll get at least a suspension and then some kind of review of her academic history. HE hasn’t even been fired though, so I doubt she’ll get any worse.

  7. Foey

    Is he still together with his wife? I am not at Yale but from what I could tell they never divorced either. This 14 year affair was so well known I can’t imagine how she put up with it for so long.

    • Colleen

      The wife (Deborah Darnell) is still employed by Yale in the same department, so yes, she still puts up with it…

      • attila

        Presumably Deborah Darnell was given adequate reason not to blow the whistle… she, too, owes her job to the department chair.

        I find it interesting that several NELC people were among the loudest voices protesting the SIngapore fiasco. They would have done better to worry about corruption and abuse of power in their own backyard.

      • Anne Bradley

        Oh my goodness, this just gets more and more disgraceful, as I read on. Dr. Gerhard Bowering in the CMES is so wonderful, devout, respectful, and intelligent. Yet there is this direct contrast – which is destructive to learning and brings disrepute to the university.

  8. toe

    for years they have waltzed around the department knowing what people were saying and thinking behind their back. if anything, i hope after the public exposure of this, she will have some shame and not show her face in the department as if she is entitled to be there.

    • alum

      Everyone in nelc knows who these two people were. And this is fairly minor by NELC standards. The rest of you never hear about all the stuff that doesn’t get out in the papers. And there’s a lot.

  9. Anne Bradley

    Does not the article show that Darnell not only was sleeping with a student, but ALSO a faculty member? I would consider that immoral, particularly since he was covering it up. It is disgraceful. And what about the woman or women who was/were involved?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.