Love makes the heart do crazy things. Just ask cardiologist Dr. Michael Simons. The Yale School of Medicine’s former Head of Cardiology hand-wrote love letters to Dr. Annarita Di Lorenzo, an Italian female researcher under his supervision, in her native language. He included lines about wanting to kiss every part of her body in every continent and city in the world. After Dr. Di Lorenzo left Yale for Cornell, Dr. Simons went on to disparage and discriminate against Dr. Di Lorenzo’s actual boyfriend (and now husband)—Dr. Frank Giordano, a lower-ranking Yale cardiologist—who says his career didn’t take off because of Simons’ biases against him. Dr. Simon remains in the Yale administration’s good graces still today, and Yale professors have finally spoken out to the New York Times about the university’s strange handling of the situation.
Dr. Simons’ flirtatious advances began in February 2010. When Dr. Di Lorenzo rejected Dr. Simon, informing him that his behaviors were disrespectful to her, her boyfriend, and his wife, Dr. Simons did what weak men do—make the women they love feel like they need them in order to ever be successful. Dr. Simon asserted that he would “open the world of science” to Dr. Di Lorenzo, who was already a doctor, in a way that her boyfriend Dr. Giordano never would be able to. After Dr. Di Lorenzo left for Cornell in 2011, Dr. Simon excluded Dr. Giordano from important meetings and projects—awfully emo for a scientist.
The couple filed complaints against Dr. Simons and after finding no support within the medical school, turned to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. Last year, the committee determined that Dr. Simons sexually harassed Dr. Di Lorenzo and exercised improper leadership in regards to Dr. Giordano, and suggested Dr. Simons’ dismissal from his chief of cardiology position and ban from attaining any high administrative position for five years. Unfortunately for Dr. Di Lorenzo and everyone against sexual harassment, provost Ben Polak did no such thing. He allowed Dr. Simon to keep other positions at Yale and only temporarily suspended him from his cardiology position.
Last November, Dr. Simons’ suspension was reduced. Some faculty members assume this has to do with the hefty amounts of federal grants Dr. Simons regularly wins and puts into his work at the University, and this is enough to ensure his position at one of the most esteemed universities in the world. As provost, Polak completely ignored the recommendation from the Misconduct board, effectively invalidating the University-Wide committee and more obnoxiously, ignoring Dr. Di Lorenzo and Dr. Giordano’s experiences. Because of his position within the administration, Polak doesn’t have to offer any explanation for his decisions.
Worse, the new medical dean Dr. Robert J. Alpern offered no reassurance about the University’s commitment to gender equality and eradicating sexual violence at a School of Medicine town hall meeting last month, when in response to Dr. Daniel C. DiMaio, who advocated on behalf of the male Yale employees seeking to create a more gender equitable space alongside women, said: “O.K., Dan and some women think there’s a problem.” Ouch.
Sexual agitation, harassment, and violence against women now go hand-in-hand with the college experience. But frat guys aren’t the only ones to blame for women feeling unsafe, unprotected, and unable to concentrate at school. Cases like this prove that the culture of sexual violence is propagated from the top down. If administrators can’t recognize the problems voiced by their own employees, how are they expected to do so for the general student body?
At the very least, Dr. Simon’s case, along with Emma Sulkowicz’s alleged rapist being found not-guilty at Columbia, proves–the Ivy League may offer better networking opportunities, but “smart” people still act dumb.