University reexamines sex policies

A May 2008 report that outlined improvements the University could make to its sexual harassment policy and education was made public for the first time Wednesday.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller released the report of the Committee on Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education in a campuswide e-mail Wednesday afternoon. Among other recommendations, the document called on the University to improve sexual harassment education and to critically reexamine sexual harassment response policies.

After a January 2008 incident in which 12 Yale students rushing the Zeta Psi fraternity posed for a photograph in front of the Yale Women’s Center with a sign reading “We Love Yale Sluts,” Salovey commissioned the committee to examine the University’s existing resources and procedures regarding sexual harassment and assault.

“We wanted to try to create an opportunity for a common conversation that could help us grow as a community,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said Wednesday.

The nine-person group spent four months intensively examining the University’s practices, ultimately recommending in May 2008 that Yale upgrade education programming for freshmen and establish a second committee to continue investigating “the procedures that both the Yale College Executive Committee and the Grievance Board for Student Complaints of Sexual Harassment use to handle sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases,” according to the report.

Miller waited for clearance from the University’s legal counsel before releasing the report, which was initially submitted to then-Dean Peter Salovey in May 2008. That clearance came over the summer, and Miller waited for classes to resume before sharing the document with the Yale community.

Some recommendations in the SHAPE report have already been acted upon. The report advises that Yale revise the educational workshop, “Sex Signals,” to be more Yale-specific, and to emphasize the role that alcohol can play in acquaintance rape. This fall, the “Sex Signals” performance was replaced with a short film shot at Yale. And although not specifically recommended in the SHAPE report, a definition of consent has been added to the undergraduate regulations, and freshmen who attended the video screening were given a card defining consent.

But a second committee recommended in the SHAPE report — a standing committee that would continue to investigate Yale College’s sexual assault and harassment response policies — has yet to be formed. Miller said that committee is “one of the things I [will] look at in the next few weeks.” Peter Parker, chair of the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, said his board will internally examine its own procedures based on the report’s recommendations, independent of the standing committee.

Trumbull College Dean Jasmina Besirevic-Regan, who chaired the SHAPE committee, said some recommendations — including the standing committee and a recommendation that the University move greater resources to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education Center — have proven harder to implement than others.

“The program activities and outreach are already happening,” Besirevic-Regan said. “What’s more difficult are the procedural and disciplinary aspects.”

Miller said the Dean’s Office will continue to examine the report to work through the recommendations and issues raised by the committee, adapting its response to the success or failure of other implemented recommendations.

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