Months after Egyptology professor John Darnell received his one-year suspension for several violations of University policy — including an alleged relationship with associate professor Colleen Manassa ’01 GRD ’05, formerly his student — the repercussions of administrative disciplinary action are still affecting faculty and students in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department.

Darnell will not return to Yale until next fall due to sanctions imposed by Provost Benjamin Polak as a result of a University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct investigation into complaints against Darnell and Manassa, according to an email obtained by the News that NELC Chair Eckart Frahm sent faculty in his department on Aug. 3. The punishment extends by a semester what was initially a one-year suspension without pay that Darnell, who also resigned as chair of the department, announced in January.

Following Darnell’s suspension, the Egyptology program will also not be able to accept new graduate students until fall 2016, and the number of students that NELC, Egyptology’s umbrella department, can accept annually has been reduced from four to three, according to Frahm’s email and two professors in the department.

Students and professors said they do not know the reasoning behind the recent decisions, but that the changes hurt NELC and cast the future of Yale’s Egyptology program in doubt.

Frahm confirmed with the News that Darnell will not return before the 2014–’15 academic year, but he declined to comment on any of the other changes. Upon his return, Darnell will not be able to hold an administrative role, including chair, director of undergraduate studies or director of graduate studies until 2023, according to Frahm’s email. Manassa will also not be allowed to hold an administrative position until 2018.

Darnell could not be reached for comment and Manassa could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

For an undetermined amount of time, classics professor Joe Manning will serve as a supervisor for students enrolled in Egyptology as well as for Darnell and Manassa, according to the email. Manning, who studied Egyptology and Ancient History at the University of Chicago, declined to comment on what he called sensitive subject matter.

“The rationale of this decision is that due to the intimate relationship between the only two faculty members in the program, students might otherwise find it hard to seek independent advice or bring complaints,” Frahm said in his email.

Some students and faculty say the most recent changes threaten the future of the small Egyptology program — one of fewer than 10 that offer doctorates in the United States — at a time when Yale faces a projected $40 million budget deficit.

The program is already small, with seven graduate students at the beginning of the 2012–’13 academic year. All but one of those students is slated to graduate before the fall of 2016, when Egyptology can start admitting students once more. And without Darnell, Manassa is the only Egyptologist on the NELC faculty. Professors in the department criticized what they labeled as seemingly punitive measures by the administration in decreasing the number of students the whole department can accept after transgressions in only one program.

Arabic professor Beatrice Gruendler said graduate students pass down knowledge from one year to the next. Admitting fewer students interrupts that process for Egyptology, she said, and will damage the NELC Department in the future.

“I regard it as quite unfair,” said Assyriology professor Benjamin Foster. “It doesn’t make sense to us. We regard it as, if anything, close to collective punishment.”

In an email to the News, Foster said the future of Egyptology depends on two factors: when Darnell will return, and whether the University wants to restore the program’s reputation and quality.

But Gruendler was more confident about the program’s restoration.

“There’s no way that Egyptology at Yale will die from this,” she said, adding that programs regularly go through less active periods when prominent professors retire.

Arabic professor Dimitri Gutas said he is frustrated with the way in which administrators addressed the transgressions and failed to discipline what he called “breaches of academic integrity.” A liaison between a professor and student, he said, raises the question of who produced that student’s work, and Yale’s failure to address the issue of academic integrity makes it seem tolerant of such behavior.

Gutas also said he has been upset by the lack of transparency in the investigation and by the decision to impose sanctions without providing reasons or consulting members of the department.

“It’s very strange; it’s even worse than NSA. Everything is hush-hush,” he said. “I’m a senior professor in the department and I should know what is happening, but there is absolutely no information on this subject.”

The Egyptology program has “passed through a difficult period,” said Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard. He said the University will ensure that “necessary resources are available” for graduate students in the department. University President Peter Salovey declined to comment, and Provost Benjamin Polak declined to comment before speaking with every faculty member in NELC.

Frahm’s Aug. 3 email came two days after administrators released Yale’s fourth semiannual sexual misconduct report. University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler and University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct Chair Michael Della Rocca would not confirm whether any items about Darnell or Manassa appeared in the most recent report. But a case involving Darnell did appear in the third semiannual report, Graduate School Associate Dean Pamela Schirmeister told the News in January, and an update to that complaint is included in the most recent report.

Egyptology is one of three subfields within NELC, along with Assyriology and Arabic & Islamic Studies.

  • attila

    This entire sad situation has been an open secret for about 10 years. During that time, the administration — that is Salovey (as dean and then provost), Pollard (as dean), Miller (as dean) etc., have ignored it. You had a male professor engaged in serious conflicts of interests that clearly broke several important rules, and a young woman climbing the academic ranks by having a relationship with a powerful man. It’s a horrible, sickening situation, and nauseated anyone associated with that department. The fact that the administration never did anything tells us a lot about the values of the people who run Yale.

    Much of what does not work at Yale can be traced to inattentive administration. And whenever something blows up in their faces, like Schirmeister falsely saying someone from Korea had a PhD, or the Title IX situation, or the older scandal at the med school with people double-dipping on their grants, the administration just circles the wagons. Nobody ever gets fired; nobody even takes responsibility. They just hire more administrators, and make faculty, students, and fill out more forms.

    In some ways this is good preparation for the young elites we want to send out in the world. The lessons the administration imparts are (1) never admit mistakes (2) don’t confuse talking about decent behavior with actual decent human behavior (3) be loyal to your class — the other administrators — rather than values, people, or even Yale as an institution (4) lie when it is convenient (5) look out for #1.

  • concerned

    It’s the Mrs. Professor thing plus the prep school predator mentality. The self-styled “corporate” administrators enrich their pockets standing by (there is no evidence) while Yale students and academic programs get harmed. The AYA needs to form an academic oversight committee, the “Corporation” just isn’t doing it. There is more to being an alum than $$$.

  • lassie

    “Everything is hush-hush” pretty much sums up how Yale conducts all of its business. The University has not explained how the punishment fits the crime (apparently not even to senior NELC faculty) or how these decisions were reached. The complete lack of transparency only serves to validate the other comments here and to demonstrate that above all else Yale is concerned with protecting itself, not its students or its academic integrity.

    There is no student advocacy body at Yale and so the students in the Egyptology program who found themselves caught between two professors conspiring together to abuse and manipulate had nowhere to turn. And perhaps most egregiously, the University has failed to explain how they justify continuing to employ these two faculty members in defiance of all logic, reason, and decency. In any other workplace (and at many other universities), they would both have been fired by now.

  • punishing the victims

    By punishing the whole department, Yale adds to the difficulties of those students who are victims of the Darnell-Manassa affair. Meanwhile, prohibiting the guilty from holding admin positions until 2023 and 2018 takes for granted the assumption that Yale intends to keep Darnell and Manassa until then, rather than sacking the pair. A fine play of justice indeed!

  • Guest


  • alum

    I knew a number of students who fell victim to Darnell-Manassa’s incompetence. They should both be fired.

    The whining of Gutas and Gruendler about “collective punishment” is absurd. Every professor in that department knew what was going on or should have. I’m glad they are having students cut because none of them–Gutas, Gruendler, or Foster were any good at running NELC. It should be shut down.

    Schirmeister and other HGS administrators are utterly incompetent. They’ve given so much bad advice on various GS policies, that it is mind numbing. In addition, students complained to them on numerous occassions, and they did nothing. I would expect nothing less from Schirmeister, who is utterly incompetent at her job; apparently she failed to get tenure and her friends got her this job–much to the GSAS detriment.

  • trueblue

    anyone who wants to understand the nelc department (in its non-batshit-crazy, non-egyptological but still dysfunctional mode) needs to read this:

  • trueblue

    “Egyptology students and faculty work closely together in rigorous field conditions, so are well informed about all aspects of the program and know each other very well.”

    “Students from the Muslim world often need time to adjust to the greater workload expected of them here than at their home universities.”

    “Students from the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean educational systems may not be used to expressing independent ideas.”

    “We see no evidence whatever for a single, detectable programmatic reason for instances of graduate student alienation, withdrawal, or failure to complete the degree.”

  • facelessman

    Ever wonder why Eckart Frahm and Benjamin Foster did absolutely nothing about the Darnell/Manassa situation? Could it be, in part, because both of their wives are employed by the NELC Department and drawing attention to the incestuous, nepotistic hiring practices of the Egyptology program might generate unintended blowback and consequences for the Assyriology program? People in glass houses typically avoid throwing stones:

    All of the other faculty members in NELC knew about Darnell and Manassa’s long-standing affair and about their abusive behavior for well over a decade. The NELC faculty’s collective failure to do anything about it speaks volumes about the departmental faculty’s collective lack of morals, lack of character, and lack of professionalism. The recent self-righteous blathering of Foster, Frahm, Gutas, and Gruendler would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Why are the people who let this happen still running the show in NELC? All of them should be fired.

    • concerned

      I am as certain as I can be that the Provost Office wouldn’t do anything about this either. And presume they exchanged with the in house legal department. What should happen is an external institutional review from top to bottom (like at Penn State) with published results. So EVERYBODY knows they may not operate under cover of secrecy because in the end it’s Yale students involved, not a corporation. Student complaints cannot be suppressed as part of a corporate coverup strategy.

  • Dr. Nun Amen-Ra

    I learned of Yale’s impressive Egyptology program several years ago in my studies of the great art theorist, philosopher, and grammarian of Ancient Egyptian, Dr. James P Allen. I was impelled to acquire several outstanding works published by graduates and faculty of the program. Among my favorites is Dr. David Klotz’s “Adoration of the Ram”. To my delight, the learned scholar delves as deeply into the deity Nun as into the esoteric aspects of Amen-Ra. It is no mere translation of the Hymns to Amen-Ra etched in the Temple of Hibis. Instead, it is an exhaustive exposition of the underlying theological ideas expressive of the age.

    As I contemplated applying to the program, I thought I might investigate some details pertaining to the admissions process. Imagine my surprise when I came across this Byzantine scandal. My initial attitude was to question the basis for breaching the private lives of professors, however unconventional–consenting adults should be beholden only to each other in their private, intimate relations. However, learning more about the mire in which these instructors and administrators are immersed, I see the source of the scandal. Academic integrity is at issue when a student is under the sway of a powerful professor. It is even more problematic when a program is so small that the leadership is effectively composed of persons tied by bonds of emotional intimacy. Where would the poor graduate students go to voice their grievances? To hell, that’s where! I see why they (Drs. Darnell and his paramour, Dr. Manassa) were reprimanded. Ironically, Dr. Manassa provided several of the photographs of the plates illustrating the text “Adoration of the Ram”–a text edited by none other than Dr. Darnell. Perhaps their productivity was increased by their intimacy, but it still seems academically unethical. I hope they accept their proper penance and resume their exceptional work in the field of Egyptology. It is doubtful that I will seek entry into this august institution (since the program is essentially on probation). However, I will continue to enjoy the profound publications encompassing the volumes of the Yale Egyptological Studies.

    Dr. Nun S. Amen-Ra,

    Enthusiastic Egyptophile & Avid Admirer of Yale Egyptological Studies