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Yale’s Decision to Endow Professorship to Sexual Harasser Backfires

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Yale University’s decision to honor a professor accused of sexual misconduct has backfired as voices have grown stronger seeking revocation of the decision.

Michael Simons, a medicine professor who was found guilty of sexually harassing a junior colleague in 2013, and later left his position as cardiology chief, has been named as the Waldemar von Zedtwitz professor of cardiology in July.

On September 6, faculty members at the School of Medicine, students, and alumni wrote an open letter to University President Peter Salovey to condemn the decision to endow Simons with the professorship.

“A professor who was found to have committed sexual harassment by an independent review and removed from his section chief position, Dr. Michael Simons, was not only allowed to continue in a prestigious academic role, but was also recently awarded an endowed chair,” the letter reads.

“We are submitting this letter to voice our disgust and disappointment with this decision. We hope this letter sends that message in support of those targeted by his harassment as well as to the past, present, and future victims of harassment at Yale and around the country who will see this action and be discouraged from speaking up.”

The university issued a statement wherein it agreed with several points and termed the new honor as just a “transfer.”

“We understand those concerns and agree with a number of the points made,” the university said. “Dr. Michael Simons was awarded the Robert W. Berliner Professorship of Medicine in October 2008 upon his arrival at Yale School of Medicine. The Berliner Professorship is named in honor of a former Dean of the Yale School of Medicine.  In the past months, the Berliner family expressed concerns that Dr. Simons continued to hold this professorship.”

The school, as a result, reassigned the Berliner Professorship to Eric Velazquez and transferred Simons to the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professorship.

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