Bagley and Natarajan: No silence, no fear: Preventing sexual misconduct at Yale

The Women Faculty Forum Council posted its “Report on Sexual Misconduct at Yale” on its Web site last night. Our goal in creating this report was to help Yale University develop and appropriately implement effective policies and procedures to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct in accordance with best practices and applicable law. In doing so, we hope to do more than generate a series of rules. We seek to strengthen a community that values the open and free exchange of ideas, respects all of its diverse members and appreciates their unique contributions.

We, therefore, recommend the implementation of a Universitywide policy on sexual misconduct, defined broadly to encompass the full spectrum of gender-based offenses, including harassment and assault. We believe it must be applicable to all students, faculty and staff throughout the University, with a single Sexual Misconduct Grievance Board empowered to resolve all sexual-misconduct complaints. We feel that such a policy is necessary to ensure that responses to sexual misconduct will be clear, transparent, centralized and be regularly reevaluated and improved. This report is the culmination of a year’s worth of research by the WFF Working Group on Sexual Misconduct to shed light on best practices for dealing with issues of sexual misconduct in educational institutions. We also discussed multiple earlier drafts with the University’s Office of General Counsel and received input from a large number of University faculty, administrators and staff. Each time someone engages in an act of sexual misconduct, it is as an assault on our entire community and our values. We call on Yale to establish a standing committee charged with implementing and regularly reevaluating a comprehensive policy at our University. Such a policy would bar all forms of sexual misconduct by any member of community (including faculty, staff and students) and would allow anonymous and third party reporting.

We would like Yale to take proactive measures in addition to reactive ones. We believe members of the community should receive ongoing training. In addition, a comprehensive, single-point-of-entry online information resource containing all of Yale‘s existing sexual misconduct policies, procedural options and resources should be developed as soon as possible. To keep the Yale community informed of instances in which sexual misconduct has occurred we ask that the standing committee regularly gather, store and review data on sexual misconduct at Yale and periodically disclose an appropriate subset of that data, while honoring guarantees of privacy and confidentiality.

Finally, we believe Yale should develop a rapid-response plan to ensure the prompt promulgation of information and updates on incidents of sexual misconduct and the University response thereto. Adopting such a policy would fulfill the ongoing Yale Tomorrow vision of “strengthening Yale as a great place to study, teach, research and work.” We are proud to be associated with a university that embodies the ideals of openness, equal opportunity and social justice. As University President Richard Levin has stated, “[In] the diversity of its students, its global outlook and its outstanding research, it is also a university of compelling change.” An essential part of preserving a community that values the differences of its members is creating a transparent system by which students, faculty and staff may address grievances. Implementation of our recommended policies and procedures would establish Yale as a leader in preventing and responding to instances of sexual misconduct on university campuses.

We invite all members of the Yale community to read our report and to use it as a catalyst to provoke discussion and initiate change. Working together, we can make a difference.

Constance Bagley is a professor at the School of Management. Priya Natarajan is a professor in the astronomy and physics departments. They are the co-chairs of the Women Faculty Forum Working Group on Sexual Misconduct.

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