NEW HAVEN – A University-wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct at one of the world’s best institutes of higher learning, Yale University, has allegedly ‘acquitted’ another professor named Thomas Pogge, who was accused of sexual harassment last year.
Yale graduate Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, in an October 2015 complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, accused Thomas Pogge of sexually harassing her during their trip to Chile, where she was acting as his translator.
Lopez alleged that the professor had groped her and made a series of inappropriate remarks, including calling her “the Monica Lewinsky” to his “Bill Clinton”.
Ms. Lopez said that after she graduated, Pogge had invited her to work as a translator at a conference in Chile, and arranged for them to stay in the same hotel room.
It was there, she said, when one night the professor pressed his erection against her body and fondled her hand, thigh and breasts while she was working at a desk in front of him.
Upon her return to New Haven later that summer, Lopez was removed from her job. After she and the professor began arguing over the terms of her employment, Lopez requested him to at pay her for her translation work in Chile, which she estimated was worth about $2,000. The professor reportedly refused this request.
When the allegations first made news, several professors in the field said that Lopez’s charges should have come as no surprise to the university. As a tenured professor at Columbia University, Pogge had been disciplined after similar accusations of sexual harassment — behavior Yale knew about when hiring him, the NY times reported.
Reportedly, Peter Salovey, Yale’s president found insufficient evidence of sexual harassment from Lopez’s complaint, and later rejected her appeal against his ruling in favor of the professor.
“I never had a chance for justice from the beginning,” Lopez said in an interview with the NY Times. “Yale had one agenda: protecting its reputation.”
Pogge, 61, denied the accusations in a long essay posted on his web page after BuzzFeed.com posted a story based on Lopez’s account of harassment.
In her complaint, Lopez Aguilar accused Yale of pressuring her to sign a nondisclosure agreement and said the university paid her $2,000, which she said she was owed for working as a research assistant.
Yale’s handling of the case has strengthened long-standing views about the university’s non-serious attitude with regards to sexual harassment on campus. Charles Larmore, a philosophy professor at Brown University, said “Yale is pretty notorious for not taking seriously — at the administrative level — cases of sexual harassment.”
“No institution likes a scandal, but at Yale there is a particular cultural silence,” said Seyla Benhabib, a professor of political science and philosophy at Yale, who signed an open letter calling for Pogge’s dismissal when the harassment case was first reported. “There is a culture of male discretion and ‘boys will be boys.’ ” he added.
In the mid-1990s, when Professor Pogge was teaching at Columbia, a young philosophy student, who, like Ms. Lopez, was a racial minority, also accused him of sexual harassment.
Commenting on the earlier incident, one faculty member of Columbia University claimed that Professor Pogge “had written a series of sexually harassing emails to the student, and there had also been some physical interaction between them.”