Light & Verity

Professor faces misconduct allegations

Accusations against Thomas Pogge attract media attention.

Yale University

Yale University

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A Yale College alumna has filed a Title IX complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over the university’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a professor. The complaint by Fernanda Lopez Aguilar ’10, filed in October 2015 but first made public in a May article in Buzzfeed, centers on accusations against philosophy professor Thomas Pogge (left).

Pogge, a noted moral and political philosopher who came to Yale from Columbia in 2008, was Lopez Aguilar’s senior thesis adviser. She first filed a complaint with the University Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct in 2011, alleging that Pogge made sexual advances toward her and then retaliated against her after she rejected those advances. The committee said it found insufficient evidence to support the harassment and retaliation claims.

In 2014, another woman—an anonymous philosophy graduate student at another university who met Pogge at a conference—wrote an online account of an affair with Pogge. She and Lopez Aguilar began working together to find other women with similar stories, they told Buzzfeed, and they asked Yale to reopen its investigation of Pogge. The university declined to investigate the graduate student’s complaint on the grounds that people unaffiliated with Yale can bring complaints only about events that occurred on campus or in connection with Yale-sponsored activities. Lopez Aguilar then took her case to the Department of Education.

In May, Pogge posted a six-page open letter denying Lopez Aguilar’s allegations and pointing out what he said were inconsistencies in her accounts over time. “My response, in brief, is that none of the alleged misconduct ever took place,” wrote Pogge.

The public controversy, which included the revelation that Pogge had been disciplined at Columbia after a sexual harassment complaint there, prompted an open letter from more than 1,000 philosophy professors, instructors, and students from many institutions. The letter states, “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.” Sixteen of Yale’s twenty-one philosophy professors signed the letter.

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