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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 | adelaide.feibel@yale.edu

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.

  • Nancy Morris

    Wolf’s more recent work has inspired controversy across the political spectrum. Writers in such varied venues as Salon, Alternet, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, National Review and The American Spectator have criticized many of her latest journalistic efforts as both conspiratorial and overblown.

    Also, one might note what this whole fuss is actually over. According to Wolf’s article, she waited about TWENTY YEARS before complaining to Yale about this alleged “incident.” And of what did the “incident” consist? Brace yourself:

    “The four of us ate a meal. He had, as promised, brought a bottle of Amontillado, which he drank continually. I also drank. We had set out candles—a grown-up occasion. The others eventually left and—finally!—I thought we could discuss my poetry manuscript. I set it between us. He did not open it. He did not look at it. He leaned toward me and put his face inches from mine. ‘You have the aura of election upon you,’ he breathed.

    “I hoped he was talking about my poetry. I moved back and took the manuscript and turned it around so he could read.

    “The next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh.

    “I lurched away. ‘This is not what I meant,’ I stammered. The whole thing had suddenly taken on the quality of a bad horror film. The floor spun. By now my back was against the sink, which was as far away as I could get. He moved toward me. I turned away from him toward the sink and found myself vomiting. Bloom disappeared.

    “‘When he reemerged—from the bedroom with his coat—a moment later, I was still frozen, my back against the sink. He said: ‘You are a deeply troubled girl.’ Then he went to the table, took the rest of his sherry, corked the bottle, and left.

    “Is that all? yes—that’s all.”

    Is that all? THAT’S NOTHING!

    Yes, if one picks through all of Wolf’s copious purple prose, one sees that “the incident,” entirely as Wolf’s presents it, consisted of Bloom supposedly putting his hand on her leg at dinner after a few drinks (but not enough drinks by everyone to drain a wine bottle). That’s it.

    No finger sliding towards the vagina. No tongue down the throat. No unsolicited squeeze on the derriere. No pressing her body up against the wall. No continued advances after her objection. No: He placed his hand on her leg, according to her. Or, as Wolf inflates it, “his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh!” That line belongs in a Harlequin Romance. And even if he had an erotic interest, of which Wolf presents zero evidence, so what? She said “no” and he left. Big deal.

    Also, note to Wolf: You are not exactly known today for your POETRY. Bloom’s pretty good at spotting excellent poetry and probably knew poetry wasn’t your forte, but what you wrote suggests he was about to tell you some other really cool professional opportunity he was about to hand you WHEN YOU STARTED ACCUSING HIM OF BEING A PERVERT AND VOMITING ALL OVER THE PLACE. You may have screwed up your whole career right then, but not because Bloom sought revenge, but because he realized he couldn’t help advance a “deeply troubled girl.”

    Twenty years delay and all this turgid prose for THAT? That’s the kind of thing a grandmother does at Thanksgiving to the kid next to her. People at dinner put a friendly hand on the next person’s leg routinely as a sign of affectionate familiarity. Wolf’s account provides not one bit of detail to distinguish what she says Bloom did from something entirely innocent. “He moved toward me.” Yes, he had to do that since to get his coat he needed to go through the bedroom door, which was in the same direction.

    And the drama and shameless gushing! For Wolf “The whole thing had suddenly taken on the quality of a bad horror film. The floor spun.” Then she “found herself vomiting!” Even Bloom just going into the bedroom to retrieve his coat to leave becomes “Bloom disappeared!” Please. Wolf needs a better editor. But what, exactly is Yale or anyone else to do with this “incident” in which, by Wolf’s own account, NOTHING HAPPENED?

    Let’s not overlook Wolf’s characterization of her stale tale as “credible evidence of a serial predator.” Serial? Wolf described ONE alleged, anodyne “incident.”

    And how about some names? Bloom says he was never in the room alone with Wolf. Wolf says the roommate and her boyfriend left Bloom and Wolf alone. What do the roommate and boyfriend say? Why are they not even named? Are we supposed to believe Wolf’s roommate and her boyfriend are intimidated by Bloom, or do they just refuse to back Wolf up? Wolf never explains. Why is the “specific graduate student” not named? The friends who identified “the specific female graduate student?” Bloom supposedly already destroyed her career, so why would she not want her name out? For that matter, is any of these people still returning Wolf’s phone calls? And how about the name of that Yale police officer who supposedly, indiscreetly and casually informed Wolf that she was just “the latest complainant” against one of the University’s faculty superstars? Most police departments wouldn’t dream of conveying such information to outsiders, information they would regard as confidential. Is that the kind of thing Yale cops pass out like lollipops? If so, someone needs to look into it right now.

    I’m sorry. Other people can form their own conclusions. But on the basis of this article and what it cited, to me Naomi Wolf’s story absolutely reeks. “She brought a sleeping bag and suitcase with the intention of staying the night in the building.” She waits TWENTY YEARS to bring this complaint and then shows up with a sleeping bag? Ah, sure. Bloom said: “You are a deeply troubled girl.” Well, from what I see in this article, I’d say Professor Bloom was right on the money.

    • ldffly

      I believe this covers it.

    • Fancy Norris

      I think she should have checked with the people in charge before saying anything.

      • Nancy Morris

        What makes you think she didn’t?

      • Mary Ann

        I don’t know who you mean by “the people in charge,” a weird and rather conspiratorial, even paranoid, term you have used in other unrelated YDN comments. I suspect you don’t know either. If you care to explain it, or to provide any fact, reasoning or even an actual statement of whatever your point might be, please feel free to do so.

        I’m not a psychiatrist and I certainly don’t mean to remotely diagnose anyone (a la Dr. Bandy Lee), but after reading this article, the NY Magazine article to which it links and the comments here, I’m left with the distinct impression that Naomi Wolf would be well served to check in with the psychiatric practice of her choice for a nice long and serious chat. Of course, I didn’t check with “the people in charge” before writing that (I know that even though I don’t know what the term means because I didn’t check with ANYONE). I hope that’s OK.

  • John Dingle Barry

    Bloom definitely had it right, a deeply troubled girl is an understatement.

  • concerned

    Please be aware that YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins in concert with Harold Rose have been enforcing with impunity a mentally and physically menacing posture towards Yale (female) sexual assault and misconduct victims who may attempt to bring their concerns to Ben Polak at the Provost’s Office. It remains impossible to consider teaching at Yale due to the hostile environment created by this dysfunctional “grievance” process currently embedded at Yale which can hardly deter fraternity boys let alone activities of esteemed professionals such as Dr. Michael Simon and Drama School Dean (“Rock out with your cock out”) Bundy.

  • Anthony G.

    For once, Yale does the right thing and shows some cahones. Wolff is a wackjob who’s carved a living out of complaining.

  • concerned

    Before determining that “it would not be reasonable to try to adjudicate a complaint that has been delayed for so long”, UWC’s Post needs to review the proceedings and the time frame of the first student grievance brought for review by the Provost’s Office AFTER the Alexander v Yale case was settled. The lawsuit had featured Professor Bloom’s prior predations. The post-Alexander v Yale mandated grievance procedure was conducted by Law School Professor Drew Days and the details were supposed to be confidential, however the results of that proceeding established faculty behavior that would not receive sanction by the University in the course of a faculty member’s quest to have sex with their student advisees, which at the time was not prohibited. A current related issue is why Law School Professor Kate Stith recently conducted electronic stalking of Professor Susan Byrne as documented in a recent sex discrimination lawsuit against Yale.