Hundreds sign letter publicly shaming Yale professor accused of harassment

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In the wake of a BuzzFeed report alleging Yale philosophy professor Thomas Pogge repeatedly sexually harassed students, hundreds in the academic community have signed a letter publicly excoriating him.

In the letter, released this week, the signatories wrote that they were expressing their "opposition to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education," adding, "such behavior undermines efforts to create an inclusive and respectful climate for education and research."


Based on information now in the public domain, they wrote, it is possible to state that "Pogge has engaged in behavior that violates the norms of appropriate professional conduct."

"Nothing is more important to our philosophical community than the trust he has betrayed," they wrote. "Based on the information that has been made public, we strongly condemn his harmful actions toward women, most notably women of color, and the entire academic community."

Among the people who signed the letter were women of color in Pogge's own department. They either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. Pogge and Yale also did not respond to requests for comment.

Accusations against Pogge stretch back to at least the mid-'90s, when he was working at Columbia University, according to the Huffington Post. Pogge was reprimanded for sexual harassment by the school around the academic year of 1994-95, and was barred from entering a building whenever the student whom he was accused of harassing had classes there.


BuzzFeed reported multiple instances of Pogge's alleged harassment at Yale. In 2010, a recent Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused him of sexually harassing her, and retaliating against her by rescinding a fellowship offer. In 2014, a Ph.D. student at a European university accused Pogge of proffering career opportunities to her and other young women in his field in exchange for sex, BuzzFeed said.

Even though he is in the midst of so much controversy, the Yale Daily News reported that Pogge is still scheduled to teach two classes in the fall and two in the spring.


Despite its powerful statement, some took to Twitter to critique the letter against Pogge.

One user believed that it purposely refrained offending those specifically responsible for bringing Pogge on in the first place:

This letter pretends to give a shit while neatly avoiding insulting or offending anyone these "teachers" need on a professional level.

— ft (@FuckTheory) June 21, 2016

None of these people will risk their grants and assistant funding by pissing off or calling out Yale's administration.

— ft (@FuckTheory) June 21, 2016

None of these people will rock the boat by calling out the chair of their own department.

— ft (@FuckTheory) June 21, 2016

These views were echoed by Wendy Brown, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, who, according to the Huffington Post, declined to participate in a conference Pogge was organizing in part due to his behavior that was at the very least “exploitative of subordinates.”


“The careers of the sexual harassers are essentially being protected by the institutions,” Brown told the Post, “and the careers of the objects of harassment are being sacrificed — that’s why I signed the letter.”

Another Twitter user said the letter could be construed as attacking Pogge only for harming academia, rather than the victims themselves.


At least four American professors have been accused of sexual harassment in the past year. In January, Rep. Jackie Speier introduced legislation to try to make it illegal for institutions to withhold complaints against a teacher when they are transferring to different universities. She compared academia's coverup of sexual assaults to those of the Catholic Church.


“Some universities protect predatory professors with slaps on the wrist and secrecy, just like the Catholic Church sheltered child-molesting priests for many decades,” she said.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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