A New York Times article this weekend documents a disturbing case of sexual harassment at the Yale School of Medicine — the university’s medical school — that has led to claims that Yale “is insensitive to instances of harassment against women.”
Former Yale School of Medicine head of cardiology Michael Simons “professed his love to a young Italian researcher at the school,” giving her a handwritten love letter in “effortful Italian,” The Times’ Tamar Lewin writes. Additionally, Simons “sought to intervene in her relationship with a fellow cardiologist under his supervision” — now her husband — and allegedly impeded him professionally within the department.
According to The Times, the researcher — Annarita Di Lorenzo — and her then-boyfriend Frank Giordano were forced to file formal complaints with Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct after they were unable to get help through the medical school. The committee found that Simons “had sexually harassed and created a hostile work environment” for Di Lorenzo and “had exercised improper leadership and compromised decision-making” towards Giordano, The Times reports.
The committee then recommended that Simons be permanently removed from his position as head of cardiology — a ban that Yale University provost Ben Polak reduced to 18 months. However, The Times reports, after inquiries into the sexual harassment case by the newspaper last week, “the university announced that [Simons] ‘had decided’ not to return to his post.”
If Simons did not resign, it was unlikely he would face any additional challenges to his leadership. According to The Yale Daily News, “Section chiefs within the medical school are lifetime positions, appointed by the department chair, and there is no process for review.”
Details of the case aside, there are many other Yale faculty members who claim that the School of Medicine is a hostile work environment for women, with several members of the cardiology department finding issue with Simons’ leadership.
“The mood of the entire [cardiology] section was fear, which kept many people silent,” one physician told The YDN. The student newspaper spoke to five female physicians in the cardiology department, all of whom were quoted anonymously for fear of their job security:
Simons made labs inaccessible to certain people, dealt with promotions unfairly by favouring some and disfavoring others and gave critical assignments to those he favoured regardless of merit, the five female physicians claimed. Though the bullying was not directed solely at women, those interviewed said that women felt the brunt of it.
Despite what seems to be a widespread sentiment that Simons and other members of the Yale College of Medicine leadership create a hostile work environment for women, the former head of cardiology still has his supporters among the faculty.
“Dr. Simons has created an outstanding working environment at the [Yale Cardiovascular Research Center] and has been very supportive of women scientists there. I sincerely hope … that we will be able to turn this page as soon as possible,” one female cardiology professor told The YDN. Simons remains the head of the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center.
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