National News

‘Beauty Myth’ Writer Says Yale Blocked Harassment Claim

Posted January 16, 2018 11:07 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2018 11:13 p.m. EST

The author Naomi Wolf accused Yale University officials on Tuesday of blocking her from filing a complaint against the famed literary critic and English professor Harold Bloom, whom Wolf accused in a 2004 magazine article of having groped her in 1983 when she was a college senior and taking a course of independent study with him.

Wolf said in a phone interview on Tuesday that she had been trying since 2015, when Bloom was quoted in Time magazine denying her allegation and saying he had “never in my life been indoors” with her, to file a formal grievance against him with Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, but that the university had refused to accept it. She said that the chair of the committee, Dr. David Post, had told her that too much time had elapsed since 1983, which is when she said the episode occurred, though he did not cite a specific statute of limitations for complaints.

She said she had decided to go in person on Tuesday to make another attempt and had notified the provost, Ben Polak, that she would be doing so. As she documented on Twitter, she brought a suitcase and a sleeping bag, because she said she did not know how long she would have to stay.

When she arrived at the provost’s office, she said, security guards prevented her from entering any elevators. Eventually, she said, Aley Menon, the secretary of the sexual misconduct committee, appeared and they met in the committee’s offices for an hour, during which she gave Menon a copy of her complaint.

But, “in many, many lawyerly ways,” Menon “refused to confirm that it was accepted as a grievance,” Wolf said. “I said, ‘I’m not leaving until this complaint is accepted into the record.'” After remaining in the room for roughly 90 minutes after Menon left, Wolf said, she left to meet someone who was providing her legal advice and was subsequently barred from re-entering.

Wolf, the author of “The Beauty Myth” and other books, said that she felt “overwhelmingly sad” and that Yale’s process of handling complaints was “clearly either corrupted or dysfunctional.”

“I’m 55 years old and an investigative reporter, and I couldn’t figure out with all of my will and digging how to lodge a complaint to keep other people safe,” she said. She wondered how a college student would be protected.

A spokeswoman for the university, Eileen O’Connor, said in a statement that Yale “is committed to preventing and addressing sexual misconduct” but that it does not comment on individual cases to protect confidentiality. She added that, due to Bloom’s health, “a year ago, he ceased meeting with students and began teaching by electronic means only.”

Bloom’s wife, Jeanne, answered the phone at their home and said he was not available. “This is not the type of thing he needs to hear or think about at this point,” she said. “It would interfere with his writing, with his teaching. I just hope it goes away.”

In the 2004 article, published in New York magazine, Wolf wrote that Bloom, after not meeting with her all semester regarding her independent study, suggested that he come to her house for dinner, where, when she sought to discuss her poetry manuscript, he put his hand on her thigh. After she moved away from him and vomited into the sink, she wrote, he told her she was “a deeply troubled girl” and left. They did not meet again, she said, and he gave her a B in the course.