Amid allegations of misconduct against administrators at the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study, the University’s Classics Department is contemplating whether Yale should cut financial and academic ties with the nonprofit, according to emails from faculty members obtained by the News.
Classics scholars across the country — including those at Yale’s peer institutions — have alleged that the institute’s administrators harassed students and took insufficient steps to deal with sexual assault and misconduct. In an Oct. 15 department-wide email, Classics Chair Christina Kraus and Director of Undergraduate Studies Andrew Johnston encouraged students report instances of discrimination or misconduct involving the institute’s staff. According to Kraus, no Yale students have lodged complaints so far, but the Classics Department is re-evaluating its relationship with Paideia.
“We are having a plenary discussion on Nov. 8 about what our department’s position is: I fully expect that the result will be to withdraw entirely from the Paideia enterprise,” Kraus wrote in an email to the News on Thursday.
The Paideia Institute hosts several programs — including educational tours, public talks and online classes — for high school and college students interested in ancient Greek and Roman culture. For $3,500, summer interns can attend weekly humanities seminars in Rome while also working on outreach, development or media for the Institute.
As an institutional member of Paideia, Yale’s Classic Department pays annual dues to the institute, according to Kraus. Kraus said that her department appreciates Paideia’s efforts to promote the study of classics among students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Still, she told the News that her department has “strong reservations” about the image of classics that Paideia presents.
Institute President Jason Pedicone told the News in an email statement that his organization is “disappointed” that the University is considering severance.
“Yes, we’ve made some missteps as we’ve grown, but we’ve taken a number of concrete steps recently to address those operational issues,” he added. “We’re looking forward to reestablishing a solid working relationship with Yale.”
16 Yale students have attended institute programs over the past five years, according to Institute records.
In her email to students, Kraus emphasized facilitating an environment where students and faculty members affiliated with the classics department feel comfortable coming forward with allegations against Paideia Institute staff. Classics professor Timothy Robinson GRD ’93 said in an email to the News that he had “no knowledge” of the institute and its alleged misconduct until he had read about them online. Other professors, when asked for comment, deferred to Kraus.
Recent articles about the Institute — posted on the online writing hub Medium — allege that the group’s administrators have engaged in racism and harassment.
One such article was written on Oct.1 by The Sportula — a collective that provides grants to classics students with financial need — detailed several allegations of misconduct levied against the institute’s staff.
“The Sportula believes that the Paideia Institute and its affiliated programs create an environment that is hostile to people of color, women, students from working-class backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups,” the article states.
For example, one anonymous Princeton graduate student claimed that a Paideia staff member’s harassment and mocking prevented them from focusing on studying Latin during a summer program with the Institute.
“Due to the racism that I have experienced at the Paideia Institute, I will no longer continue such study,” they wrote in an email included in The Sportula’s article.
Another student also accused Paideia staff of holding white-supremacist views and undermining the value of equity and diversity in the workplace. Another account called one Paideia employee a fascist.
While the allegations are public, the News was unable to verify them.
According to Paideia Institute president Jason Pedicone, the organization is working to respond to the allegations and cultivate a more inclusive environment at the institute. An Oct. 15 Medium statement from the institute’s Board of Directors acknowledged “real and persistent problems” in the conduct of Paideia’s leaders and said Paideia assembled a human resources committee and employee handbook to address these concerns.
Pedicone did not respond to a further request for comment concerning the Institute’s relationship with Yale.
While several students have used Medium to speak out against Paideia, other students have written in defense of the Institute. Luby Kiriakidi, a Cornell graduate who has studied and worked with Paideia for the past four years, recognized Paideia’s internal issues regarding discrimination but urged critics to give the institute time to make changes.
Wenbin Gao ’20 also defended Paideia and said that in his two years with the institute, he never experienced any racism or sexism from any staff member. Gao also addressed complaints about several Paideia employees’ political views. Some anonymous complaints described their political views as “overly conservative.”
“I understand some members have political opinions that can be rightly called ‘conservative.’ But since when has it become a crime to be conservative?” Gao wrote on Oct. 5. “I simply do not understand: if Paideia truly has a ‘toxic’ culture, how can I as a low-income Asian be treated with so much kindness?”
In an interview with the News, Gao called The Sportula’s Medium statement against the institute “a bunch of malicious lies.” He called for a “more balanced voice” to describe Paideia’s situation.
Yale’s Classics Department is not the only organization to consider distancing itself from the Paideia Institute.
The Society for Classical Studies — an association of scholars, university professors and people interested in Greek and Roman thought — announced in a news release on Oct. 13 that it would temporarily halt funding for Paideia’s programs. The society added that it would reconsider the hiatus once it receives a response.
In addition, The Sportula said in its Oct. 1 article that because of the criticism, the collective “prefers to no longer support” grant requests connected with the Institute.
“While we will not ignore a member of our community in need, we cannot in any way conscientiously endorse the Institute’s hostile environment,” The Sportula wrote on Medium.
The Paideia Institute was founded in 2010.
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Correction (Oct. 26): A previous version of this article stated that the university and Paideia are collaborating to start a Latin learning program in New Haven; however, this is not true. The article has been changed to reflect this.