Yale Accused of Mishandling Sexual Harassment Case

The school has been accused of insensitivity towards women in cases of sexual harassment

The following is an article written for a student-run newspaper in an undergraduate digital journalism course. You may find the original published here.


November 13, 2014

NEW HAVEN, CT - A sexual harassment case five years in the making at the Yale School of Medicine has led to additional allegations regarding the university's handling of such cases.

The case involves inappropriate behavior against a younger researcher by the school's former head of cardiology.

Dr. Michael Simons began pursuing Annarita Di Lorenzo in 2010, despite the fact that he was married and she was in a relationship with another man, who was under the supervision of Dr. Simons. He continued to pursue her even after she insisted that his advances were unwanted and insulting.

Dr. Simons insisted that Ms. Di Lorenzo was with the "wrong man" since Simons was "in a position to 'open the world of science to her,'" The New York Times reported.

Dr. Di Lorenzo left the school in 2011. Her now husband, Dr. Frank Giordano, however, stayed at Yale where he claims his career was hindered by the efforts of Dr. Simons.

Efforts by reporters from the Yale Daily News to contact Dr. Simons about the allegations were not returned.

Dr. Michael Simons is the former head of cardio at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Michael Simons is the former head of cardio at Yale School of Medicine.

The School’s Response

Drs. Di Lorenzo and Giordano were disillusioned when they tried reporting Dr. Simons' behavior to the medical school, so they turned to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) to file a formal complaint.

Last year, the committee ruled "that Dr. Simons had sexually harassed and created a hostile work environment for Dr. Di Lorenzo," said The Times.

The UWC also found Dr. Simons guilty of misusing leadership with regards to Dr. Giordano and recommended Simons be removed from his position permanently. Provost of the University Benjamin Polak instead made the decision to give Dr. Simons an 18-month suspension, according to the Yale Daily News.

Simons admitted he had romantically pursued a junior colleague, telling the Times that he wanted to apologize for "this error in judgment," but maintained that he had never abused his power.

“Matters brought to the UWC are confidential; so, again, I can not comment on specific cases,” Polak wrote to the News in an email. “I provide a careful and unbiased review of all cases that come before me, and I am confident in the integrity of our policies and procedures.”

Polak denied accusations that his decision to lighten Dr. Simons' punishment was due to Polak's former position as head of the economics department, where Dr. Simons' wife, Katerina Simons, works.

Moving Forward

Originally allowed to return in the spring of 2015 to his position as head of Yale's cardio department,” Simons has decided not to return, the college announced to the Times this week.

Many professors at the university have expressed discontent about how the school handles cases of sexual harassment and misconduct. The Yale School of Medicine has responded to the allegations against Dr. Simons by convening a Task Force on Gender Equity.

"Yale must - and will - provide a positive environment that supports growth, advancement, and opportunity for everyone, University President Peter Salovey announced Saturday night.

Yale School of Medicine was founded in 1810 and known for being highly selective.

"We must - and will - deal with inappropriate behavior consistently, no matter what position a person holds. I have confidence in UWC and their fairness. Clearly there are concerns in the Medical School about the work environment, and I am counting on the dean and this new task force to be vigorous in the pursuit of them."

Accusations against Yale for their handling of this case comes after a list of 55 colleges being investigated for mishandling cases of sexual assault and sexual misconduct was released by the Department of Education earlier this year.