Joeseph Schlessinger: Yale's Liability

The Chronicle of Higher Education's news blog has a little item on Joseph Schlessinger. You may know him as the "internationally known researcher and head of the pharmacology department at Yale University" famous for his "his work in figuring out how information flows between a cell surface and the cell -- studies credited with laying the groundwork for several treatments for cancer".

Or you may know him now as the jerk-ass who allegedly sexually harassed his secretary so frequently and so long that she eventually had to quit her job to get away from him.

The secretary, Mary Beth Garceau, is now suing Yale for back pay and benefits, legal fees, and damages. Yeah! Because they wouldn't take her seriously when she complained about the jerk-ass. But hey, he's a member of the National Academy of Sciences, so how could he possibly be guilty of sexual harassment? After all, she's just a secretary - really, who has the credibility here? Or, more to the point, who has more value to the university? Maybe he didn't have a shiny Nobel medal but I'm sure he's been a good cash cow.

Well, I wish Mary Beth all the luck in the world in her lawsuit. Make Yale pay through the nose. Make them understand the real cost of protecting sexual harassers. Because for damn sure she wasn't the only person he was subjecting to his vile behavior. They never do it to just one person.

Read the the Hartford Courant article to get a flavor for the kinds of behavior we are talking about here. I mean, this is some of the most crude and vulgar kinds of sexual harassment. Nothing subtle at all here. Then see if you agree with Tom Conroy, Yal e spokesperson, that there was no violation of the law. If this kind of behavior is not in violation of Yale's sexual harassment policy, then I'm not sure what is. From the policy:

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not restricted to: unwelcome sexual advances; suggestive or lewd remarks or music; sexual jokes; unwanted hugs, touches or kisses; requests for sexual favors; unwelcome sexual gifts; retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment; display of sexually oriented objects, photographs, posters, pictures or cartoons.

From the Hartford Courant article, examples of things that Schlessinger is said to have subjected Garceau to:

[He] commented on the size of her breasts and style of her underwear...On her first day of work, she says, Schlessinger told a joke to a colleague involving penis size and watched for her response...[H]e once showed her pornography on his office computer and, another time, pulled a picture from his desk showing a naked woman without a head and told her it was his wife.

Yes, it's a real stretch trying to make a one-to-one mapping of incidents and examples from the sexual harassment policy. Isn't it. Tom Conroy. Yale spokesperson. Who does not think any laws were violated. Say, Tom, do you have a daughter? Maybe you'd like to have her apply for a job as Joseph Schlessinger's secretary. No daughter? Why not send your wife to work there?

Tom Conroy, your title should not be "University spokesperson", it should be "Apologist for the Oppressors".

Well, anyway, if any of you run into Joeseph Schlessinger - what the hell, if you run into Tom Conroy - puke on their shoes for me, would ya?

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Yale doesn't have a great track record for this kind of stuff, 'liberalism' aside. See previous mention of child-molesting Yale geology prof *who did it on campus*.

I've got a copy of the complaint she filed in federal court at

You can send her messages of support via her attorney, Karen Torre, at I've sent messages of support before via attorney to others I've found fighting similar legal battles to mine...they have always been very well received by the Plaintiff. Fighting a lawsuit is a lonely and sometimes frightening battle. Take the time to drop her a line.

Oh yeah, while your in the mood to write e-mail, drop Tom Conroy, the Yale spokesperson, a line at to let him know that you read the actual court complaint filed by Ms.Garceau and that you are shocked and appalled that Yale justifies such behavior as "obviously" being within the law.

While you're at it write Andrew Hamilton, the Yale provost, at Tell him exactly what you told Tom Conroy, but also tell him what you think of the suitability for your children (or your friends' children, etc) of a campus where egregious lechers are harbored rather than punished.

I have a friend whose wife worked for a member of the Canadian parliament (the American equivalent of a congress person). She told me that every letter received by a member of parliament on a particular topic was counted as 10 people in their voting district who felt exactly the same way, but didn't bother to write.

The upshot? Opinion letters matter, and they do make an impact.

My letter, just sent off this evening, to the provost and to Mr. Conroy:

Dear Mr.Conroy,

This evening I obtained a copy of the federal court complaint of Ms.Garceau regarding the egregious sexual harassment she suffered while working for Joseph Schlessinger. I have posted it off of my web-site and forwarded it to friends to post off of their web-sites such that the public will have greater access to the complete details of Ms.Garceau's complaint.

After reading the full details, I am shocked and appalled that Yale's official response is that they feel no laws have been violated. No doubt your thoughts would be different if it had been your daughter or wife working for Professor Schlessinger.

I would never send my child to a university such as Yale where they feel that lewd, disgusting behavior such as Professor Schlessinger's is "normal". It is completely appalling that the university condones his behavior instead of punishing it.

I am disgusted.



I think it would also be interesting to see how many athletes have gotten away with this, too and it has been swept under the rug because the glory that the athletes bring to Yale.

We see it in pro sports all of the time, someone brings a charge against one of the players, and they are dissuaded because "we wouldn't want to damage the reputation of (insert team name here.)"

Well, if he is bringing fame and fortune to Yale because of his scientific prowess, there is no need to rock that particular boat, is there?

I wish I believed in prayer, because I would bless Mary Beth Garceau tonight before I lay me down to sleep. I hope she succeeds.

By Mike Haubrich (not verified) on 05 Dec 2006 #permalink

you spelled "Joseph" wrong in Joseph Schlessinger in the title. please correct