For Yale University to bar a complainant from returning to the very office charged with the duty to hear and act on complaints of sexual misconduct looks like a confession of weakness and fear — and a ham-fisted exercise of power.
Naomi Wolf has expressed disbelief that Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct “would not accept or investigate her ‘credible evidence of a serial predator and a dysfunctional grievance process.’”
Ms. Wolf should not be left to stand alone with this.
In 1984, when I was a new Ph.D. about to take a job in the Yale Department of English, a senior faculty member at Stanford took me aside and warned me that Harold Bloom was notorious for sexual misconduct with women and I should be on my guard. She was not the only one who offered me a warning or an account of sexual misconduct and its psychological and professional cost.
If, as accounts of damaging experiences offered by Ms. Wolf, and by others to me, are accurate, Wolf was not the first or last person Bloom preyed upon and whose reputation or career he may have damaged.
Wolf’s full complaint should be heard, an investigation should be opened and Yale should stop protecting the wrong people.
On a recent visit to Yale, Anita Hill was asked how men in positions of power get away with sexual harassment, often for decades.
Without hesitating, she said that their survival, despite their misconduct, was directly related to the honors bestowed upon them by rich and powerful institutions — like Yale.
“One of the questions we have to ask ourselves is: Are we enablers? Are we participating when we ignore these stories we’ve heard about people and then give them these awards? In a sense, we give them a cover for bad behavior,” she said.
Let’s hope Yale’s attempt to shut Naomi Wolf down has the opposite effect: breaking down a wall of fear and silence to open the way for students, faculty, staff and other alumni to come forward with accounts of their own experiences of sexual misconduct at Yale.
Patricia Klindienst taught English at Yale from 1984 to 1991.