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Paul Cooper/Shutterstock Jed Rubenfeld
Former students of disgraced Yale Law professor Jed Rubenfeld are recounting alleged sexual harassment they faced before he was suspended from the school.
Last fall, 62-year-old Rubenfeld was issued a two-year suspension from the Yale faculty with restrictions put in place when he returns on how he'll be allowed to interact with students. Rubenfeld has been a well-known leading professor at Yale, and along with his wife Amy Chua, author of the controversial 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
The suspension came after a Title IX investigation into sexual harassment claims from multiple former students, some of whom speak out anonymously in a recent New York magazine piece.
In August, Rubenfeld spoke to The New York Times, denying any sexual harassment and touching anyone without consent. He said, "I have been teaching for 30 years. I have made jokes and comments that I would not make today and I wish I had not made. This may have made students uncomfortable. I respect students for coming forward if it did."
"But," added Rubenfeld, "I never sexually harassed anybody. That's a completely different thing."
In the New York article, one student recalled Rubenfeld asking invasive questions about rape, in the context of writing an op-ed on the subject from a law perspective.
"I felt very agitated at the time. The fact that he was questioning things like, 'Does sexual assault happen in the ways in which it is reported?'" she told the magazine, adding that many students felt obligated to play along and become close with the well-connected faculty.
The student said she thought the discussion on sexual assault "was good faith on his part" even though it bothered her, though she no longer gave him the benefit of the doubt in October 2014, when he allegedly attempted to kiss her while drunk at a party hosted at his house.
"The basis of my Title IX complaint is that he tried to kiss me. At that point, I figured out that it wasn't theoretical," she said.
Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld in 2019
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Another student who also served as a teaching assistant to Rubenfeld said that he once asked her in a one-on-one setting why she wasn't married, and allegedly told her "it must have been tough with the boys, being a smart girl." At another event, he allegedly put his arm around her waist.
One former student explained to New York why she agreed to give a statement about the sexual harassment claims: "I defend people who are accused of sex crimes. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that his liberty is not at stake. We're not talking about anyone going to jail. We are talking about his ability to wield power over people."
In October, the Yale Law Women Board called on the university to "permanently remove Jed Rubenfeld from campus and release information regarding the nature of the allegations and findings of the investigation."
According to the Yale Daily News, the university's president, Peter Salovey, responded to the group leaders in a November email, though they said he did not "meaningfully addresses the serious concerns" or specifically address Rubenfeld's case.
Rubenfeld declined to be interviewed for the New York article. Chua, 58, however, spoke to the magazine, saying at one point, "I don't think I can get him to talk. We just live our own lives. I think it's just his choice."
In August, though, Rubenfeld told the outlet that he "absolutely, unequivocally" denies sexually harassing anyone. He claimed at the time that he was being targeted: "I think subsequent to me having written some controversial articles about sexual assault that I became a target of people making false allegations against me."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.