Grievance Board reports 10 student complaints

Ten students brought complaints of alleged sexual misconduct to the Yale College Sexual Harassment Grievance Board during the 2007-’08 school year, the board announced Tuesday.

The report is the first of its kind and marks a step forward for recommendations submitted in a Grievance Board review in 2006, which recommended improving the tracking and reporting of sexual crimes. Unlike the Executive Committee, the College’s highest disciplinary body, the board — composed of two faculty members, two administrators, two undergraduates and one counselor — has no punitive power but can act as a mediator between parties. The board hears formal and informal complaints of sexual harassment and assault from victims seeking recourse without legal or disciplinary action.

“We should have the statistics out there so that victims know they’re not alone and something can be done,” said Peter Parker, a physics professor and convener of the Grievance Board, in a phone interview Tuesday.

The report follows another report released last week by the Sexual Harassment Assault Resources & Education Center, which disclosed three cases of alleged sexual harassment and 17 cases of alleged sexual assault against undergraduates, based on calls to its hotline.

The disparity between the numbers reflects the tangled trail of how the University reports sexual crimes. It is not clear how many of the 10 undergraduate complaints to the Grievance Board overlap with the 20 undergraduate calls to the SHARE center. Nor is it publicly known which of those complaints, or which others, became the eight that were included in the 2007 University Report on Campus Security.

Nor does anyone know the full number of sexual assaults that occur at Yale but go unreported entirely.

But together, the Grievance Board and SHARE center reports present a fuller picture of the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus. Until this year, the only metric for sexual offenses was the campus security report, which only tallied the strictly defined crimes that federal law requires.

The new reports mark increased transparency on the part of Yale security officials, Parker said. The U.S. Department of Education has been investigating Yale since 2004 for under-reporting sexual crimes.

Last year was unusually busy for the Grievance Board, Parker said. He said he doubts more sexual crimes occurred last year compared to years past, but for some reason more of them were brought to the Grievance Board.

In future years, he said, the Grievance Board will report on its activities every September. This year’s inaugural report was delayed, Parker said, while administrators discussed exactly what the report should include. Parker, SHARE director Carole Goldberg, and Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith considered whether the Grievance Board’s report should document only its own cases or try to pull together all the sources of reporting sexual crimes. They decided that each report should exist separately rather than trying to combine and qualify them all, Parker said.

The figures in each report vary because they represent different kinds of offenses.

“It may be confusing, but these things are apples and oranges,” Parker said.

The Grievance Board’s figure reflects five complaints of sexual harassment between students, one complaint of sexual harassment against a faculty member, three complaints of sexual assault between students, and one complaint of sexual assault against a faculty member.

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