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Scandal brings new punishments
for Egyptology program

Yale's troubled Egyptology program is experiencing new fallout from a faculty sex scandal that rocked its department early this year, the Yale Daily News reports.

Professor John Darnell, the Egyptologist at the center of the scandal—who announced in January that he would resign as chair of the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and serve a one-year, unpaid suspension from the faculty—will extend his absence until next fall, the YDN reports.

Citing an August 3 e-mail from department chair Eckart Frahm to senior NELC faculty, the News says Provost Benjamin Polak has imposed several new restrictions on the Egyptology program and the department as a whole.

The sanctions arise from a long-running affair between Darnell and one of his students, who later joined the NELC faculty as a junior professor of Egyptology. In an e-mail to colleagues in January, Darnell acknowledged violating the faculty handbook by having a relationship with a student under his supervision. He also admitted that he had improperly participated in the review of a faculty member with whom he had an intimate relationship, and that he used his position as department chair to cover that up.

The student-turned-professor has been widely identified as Colleen Manassa ’01, ’05PhD, who worked closely with Darnell as a doctoral student and then on the faculty. The department hired her in 2006 and promoted her to associate professor in 2010.

Further complicating matters, Darnell and Manassa are Yale's only two faculty members in Egyptology, a small program in the small NELC department. Their personal relationship and their abusive treatment of graduate students—who had nowhere else to turn—created a hostile environment, according to students who complained to the university administration.

An item in the university's most recent semiannual report on complaints of sexual misconduct, released this month, refers to that complaint, according to one of the students involved. The report notes that a Yale Title IX coordinator—assigned to shepherd sexual misconduct complaints in compliance with federal anti-discrimination law—brought a formal complaint against the (unnamed) faculty members, charging them with "threatening, intimidating, or coercing a person or persons."

The university "did not find sufficient evidence to support the allegations of sexual misconduct but did identify other problematic conduct," the report says, adding: "Disciplinary steps were taken and structures were put in place to address the academic environment."

Those steps include prohibiting Darnell from holding an administrative position until 2023, and Manassa until 2018; assigning classics professor Joe Manning to supervise the Egyptology program; barring the Egyptology program from admitting new graduate students until fall 2016; and reducing the overall number of graduate students NELC may admit, by one per year, the Yale Daily News says, citing Frahm's e-mail.

That last measure galls NELC's senior faculty. "I think it is quite unfair of the graduate school to reduce our admissions pool," Assyriologist Benjamin Foster says in an e-mail to the Yale Alumni Magazine. "The decision . . . is tantamount to group
punishment."

In an Alumni Magazine interview in January, Foster acknowledged having known that Darnell participated in "more than one" employment decision involving his lover. "The basic situation has been known for a very long time” within NELC, he said then, because “Yale’s a village.”

Another senior professor in the department, Dmitri Gutas, told the Yale Daily that he's frustrated by the administration's failure to address “breaches of academic integrity”:

A liaison between a professor and student, he said, raises the question of who produced that student’s work, and Yale’s failure to address the issue of academic integrity makes it seem tolerant of such behavior.

Gutas also criticized the secrecy of the disciplinary process, calling it "even worse than NSA."

Frahm declines to comment.

Filed under Colleen Manassa, John Darnell, Egyptology, NELC

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