Naomi Wolf ’84, author of “The Beauty Myth,” accused Yale on Monday of refusing to accept a formal sexual misconduct complaint against humanities professor and renowned literary scholar Harold Bloom GRD ’55, who Wolf alleges groped her in 1983, when she was a senior at Yale.
Wolf told the News she has been trying to file a complaint remotely with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct since April 2016. In a 2015 Time magazine interview, Bloom denied Wolf’s allegations, saying he had never been in a room alone with her.
Wolf claims the assault took place when she and Bloom met for dinner at her apartment at Bloom’s request, along with her roommate and the roommate’s boyfriend, to discuss her academic work. The roommate and her boyfriend eventually left and the assault took place at that point. At the time, Wolf said, she was taking a course of independent study with Bloom. According to Wolf, Bloom’s denial of the allegations, which she said damaged her reputation and interfered with her discussions with Chair of the Yale English Department Langdon Hammer about a possible teaching position at Yale, constituted retaliation against a 2004 New York magazine article in which she detailed the alleged incident.
In response to an initial complaint that Wolf emailed to David Post, chair of the UWC, in April 2016, Post wrote in a letter Wolf provided to the News that the UWC would accept jurisdiction over her allegation that Bloom’s statements in Time magazine represented “retaliatory interference” with her efforts to find a job at Yale and ultimately damaged her reputation. But the UWC refused to accept jurisdiction over her assault allegations because Wolf did not make an official complaint until 33 years after the alleged incident and 12 years after she went public with the allegations in 2004.
“Although Yale’s current procedures take into account the many good reasons that a complainant might have for waiting to bring a complaint, it would not be reasonable to try to adjudicate a complaint that has been delayed for so long,” Post wrote.
UWC procedures state that all members of the Yale community involved in a matter before the committee must maintain “confidentiality of its proceedings and the information obtained for those proceedings.” The purpose of the confidentiality rule is to encourage all parties and witnesses to fully participate in UWC proceedings without fear of retaliation or retribution for providing all pertinent information.
Asked about Wolf’s case in November, Post told the News that as UWC chair, he can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a case.
On Tuesday, Wolf took to Twitter to chronicle her trip from her home in New York City to Yale to file a formal complaint against Bloom in person after corresponding with Post and University administrators several times in the past two years about filing the grievance. She brought a sleeping bag and suitcase with the intention of staying the night in the building if necessary to ensure she successfully filed a complaint. At Provost Ben Polak’s office at 2 Whitney Ave., Wolf said she was met by a group of security personnel with a photo of her in hand who refused to let her meet with the provost. Eventually, Wolf said, Yale’s Senior Associate General Counsel Harold Rose came to the lobby to meet with her. Wolf said she confronted Rose about a letter, which she provided to the News, that he wrote to her in 2017 that claimed that she had decided not to file a complaint, which Wolf said was false.
Wolf said she was then escorted by UWC Secretary Aley Menon and three Yale Police Department officers to the UWC office at 55 Whitney Ave. According to Wolf, during a one-hour meeting that followed, Menon refused to confirm whether the UWC would accept Wolf’s formal grievance and refused to explain what the specific statute of limitations is for filing UWC complaints.
Menon declined to comment, referring questions to Yale’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
Wolf momentarily left the UWC office to meet with her adviser, Kenneth Fox, in the building’s lobby, after which YPD officers barred them both from returning to the office, according to the accounts of both Wolf and Fox.
Responding to an email sent to her husband’s account, Bloom’s wife, Jeanne Bloom, referred questions to OPAC. She had previously told The New York Times that Bloom was not available for comment.
“This is not the type of thing he needs to hear or think about at this point,” she told the Times. “It would interfere with his writing, with his teaching. I just hope it goes away.”
Post wrote in various emails that Wolf provided to the News that the UWC would accept Wolf’s complaint as long as she left out the 1983 assault and agreed to confidentiality. Wolf refused both conditions.
According to Wolf, David Bloom, Harold Bloom’s son accosted her in front of her New York residence in October 2016, taking photographs of her and telling her that his brother was “extremely angry” at her for writing the New York Magazine Story and implied threats to her and her family’s safety. Wolf said she reported the instance to the New York Police Department, New Haven Police Department and Yale Police Department.
Yale Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor declined to comment on Wolf’s case, citing the University’s policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of sexual misconduct cases in order to protect “the confidentiality and the integrity of its process for adjudicating cases of sexual misconduct.”
According to O’Connor, Bloom no longer meets in person with students, teaching by electronic means due to health problems.
In an interview with the News, Wolf described her attempt to file a complaint in person as “triggering,” and expressed disbelief that the UWC would not accept or investigate her “credible evidence of a serial predator and a dysfunctional grievance process” in order to protect the safety of students. Wolf told the News that shortly after the alleged assault in 1983, several of her friends independently told her about a specific female graduate student whose career Bloom ruined after she rebuffed his sexual advances. And after Wolf filed a case with the YPD in October 2016, she said a YPD officer told her in April 2017 when she was trying to follow up on her case that she was “the latest complainant.”
“I again remembered how vulnerable I felt when I was 19 and how shocking that this institution that was supposed to protect me and other young people like me wasn’t going to,” Wolf said. “It certainly was very traumatic to feel like I was going back in time to feel so powerless and unheard.”
In an email in October, YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins said that because of confidentiality concerns, “it would not be YPD’s practice to inform a complainant whether it had or had not received similar complaints about an accused person.”
The UWC was established in 2011.
Adelaide Feibel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Jan 18: A previous version of this article stated that Naomi Wolf traveled to Yale to file her formal complaint on Monday, Jan. 15. She in fact tried to file her complaint on Tuesday Jan. 16.