November 4, 2014

Weill Cornell Faculty Member Target In Yale Sexual Harassment Scandal

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A sexual harassment case at the Yale School of Medicine — where the victim of the harassment is a current assistant professor at Cornell — is surfacing after five years with new criticisms of the institution’s response to harassment, according to The New York Times.

Yale’s former head of cardiology, Dr. Michael Simmons, allegedly “professed his love” and attempted to intervene in the personal relationship of Dr. Annarita Di Lorenzo, who relocated to Weill Cornell Medical College in 2011, where she currently serves as an assistant professor pathology and laboratory medicine, according to The Times.

Simons has since “decided not to return” to his position after the incident, a Yale University spokesperson told The Times.

In February 2010, Simons — who is married — gave Di Lorenzo a handwritten love letter, written in Italian, according to The Times. Di Lorenzo rejected his advances, saying she found the letter “insulting” to his wife, her and her then-boyfriend.

When Di Lorenzo moved to Cornell in 2011, her then-boyfriend and now-husband Dr. Frank Giordano stayed at Yale. According to the Times, Giordano claims that Dr. Simons stymied his career advancement following the incident.

After Di Lorenzo and Giordano filed a formal complaint against Simons in 2013, Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct concluded that the cardiology chief had sexually harassed Di Lorenzo and “publicly derided” Dr. Giordano, though they could not definitively label Simons’s behavior as “retaliatory,” noting a complex confluence of factors in his professional decisions, according to the Times.

The committee recommended that Simons be removed from his position indefinitely and be subject to a five-year ban from all administrative positions.

Instead, Yale Provost Benjamin Polak punished him with an 18-month suspension from his role as section chief of cardiology, allowing him to remain as the director of the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center and as a co-director of the Yale University College London Collaborative.

The reasons for his decision have not been made public, according to The Yale Daily News.

However, there are also voices in support of Simons and in defense of the university, some of whom say that the accusations have been exaggerated, according to the Times.

According to The Yale Daily News, there are those who attest to the “outstanding working environment” Simons created at the medical school, saying that he “has been very supportive of women scientists there.”

In a written statement to the Times, Simons conveyed his regret and apologized for what he described as an “error in judgement.” However, he asserted that “he had never abused his position at Yale to punish or retaliate against any faculty member.”

Simons also maintains that the Times reporter was “‘manipulated by a small and vocal group of people with an axe to grind,’” the Yale Alumni Magazine reported.

On Monday, the medical school convened a new Task Force on Gender Equity, with both Salovey and Polak in attendance, according to the Yale Alumni Magazine.

Cornell University declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.