Report urges new harassment board

A group of female faculty and staff released a 76-page report on sexual misconduct at Yale Thursday evening via the organization’s Web site recommending a comprehensive overhaul of the University’s sexual misconduct policy and disciplinary procedures.

The Women Faculty Forum Council Report on Sexual Misconduct at Yale, which has been in the works since last fall, builds on the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education (SHARE) Report sent to students by Yale College Dean Mary Miller on Sept. 2 , and echoes the SHAPE report’s call for a standing committee to examine sexual harassment policy. But the new report also calls for the proposed committee to craft new, universal policies to replace the current rules among the professional schools and Yale College, and suggests the creation of a new sexual misconduct grievance board to administer the policies for the entire University.

In an e-mail Thursday night, Miller said she “would be pleased” to see a committee similar to the one SHAPE recommended put in place, but would not comment on the time frame in which the committee would form. University President Richard Levin said he hadn’t yet reviewed the group’s final report and would do so only after consulting with Provost Peter Salovey.

But the Women Faculty Forum expects the University to create such a committee and name a chair before December, said Connie Bagley, a member of the group’s steering committee and the co-chair of the committee that authored the report.

“I think it’s something that’s been talked about and recommended and reasonable,” Bagley said. “We’ve certainly received no indication from anyone we’ve talked to in the 12-month process to make me feel like that would not happen.”

But the potential impact of the Women Faculty Forum’s recommendations could be greater than the report seems to suggest. Priya Natarajan, a co-chair of the report committee and a former member of the Executive Committee, said that the new grievance board would sidestep the Executive Committee and assume responsibility for sexual harassment cases. The forum emphasizes the importance of transparency on issues of sexual misconduct, while the Executive Committee has strict policies on confidentiality and anonymity.

“ExComm is not trained to deal with these cases,” Natarajan said. “They are obviously very competent in dealing with Undergraduate Regulations. But we are suggesting that sexual misconduct cases be removed from Yale College … We want these cases all to be moved to the central body.”

Natarajan added that the Women Faculty Forum has worked closely with General Counsel’s Office to ensure that the group’s recommendations comply with federal law.

“We’ve already done a lot of the leg work,” Natarajan said. “We’re very hopeful.”

Over the past year, Women Faculty Forum researchers have presented their proposals to a variety of faculty and administrators to largely positive responses, Bagley said.

Peter Parker, convenor of the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, which deals only with individual cases within Yale College, reviewed the report twice while the forum was still developing it. Though discrepancies in sexual harassment policy across Yale’s schools have not presented a problem for the Grievance Board, Parker said he supports the new recommendations.

“I think that what they’re suggesting is a good idea,” Parker said. “As chair of the Yale College board, I would look forward to working with them on this.”

Issues related to sexual misconduct have recently surfaced at Yale. The U.S. Department has still not released the report of its investigation into Yale’s compliance with federal crime reporting requirements, and in the winter of 2008, a group of students pledging Zeta Psi fraternity posed for a photo outside the Yale Women’s Center with a sign reading, “We Love Yale Sluts.”

The Women Faculty Forum explicitly states in their report that their recommendations are not intended as a response to any one instance of sexual misconduct at Yale. But both Women Faculty Forum researchers interviewed pointed to the Preseason Scouting Report e-mail, an anonymous message forwarded to several student panlists earlier this year that ranked the relative attractiveness of 53 women in the class of 2013, as an example of the need for increased transparency and preparedness at the University level.

“We want the University to adopt a crisis response plan where it would be able to treat situations that have become public through viral e-mail, or in a widely published photo,” Bagley said. “We are calling on the administration to keep the public apprised of what’s happened and what action has been taken.”

The Women Faculty Forum formed in 2001, at the University’s tercentennial, to advocate for issues of gender equality.

Comments

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Dear Women of Yale,

    We men of Yale truly appreciate you and consider you to be our social and political equals. Please don’t bureaucratize your own equality. Equality is a social construct built on respect for Yale Women as both Yalies and Women. What the subjects of this article propose is to turn this into a legal formalism and strip it of its social foundations. You want a way to build resentment between genders? This is it.

    Sincerely,
    ROFLCOPTER

  • Y faculty member

    ROFLCOPTER,
    If all of the men at Yale truly appreciated women and considered them to be their social and political equals, there would not be a 76-page report detailing the extent of sexual misconduct at Yale. Who created the need for this “legal formalism”??

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Y faculty member,

    Surely if there are SEVENTY SIX WHOLE PAGES written about the subject, it must be a real problem.

    Sincerely,
    ROFLCOPTER

  • @ROFLCOPTER

    You want to build resentment between the genders? Make one of the genders feel unsafe. Don’t protect their rights. Minimize the importance of assaults against them. That will accomplish your goal.

  • Old Blue ’73 (first coed class)

    Perhaps Yale students know this already but the article doesn’t make it clear that the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board (SHGB) has existed for many years. See its page here: http://www.yale.edu/yalecol/student_affairs/harassment/index.html

    The report that the Forum wants “more transparency” is ominous. Do they mean its investigations, the complaints and the disciplines it metes out are to be public? The current SHGB handles complaints informally, mediatess disputes between parties and makes recommendations to them. Formal complaints for disciplinary action go to the ExComm.

    It sounds like one of the Forum’s proposals is to move all sexual harassment/assault issues to the SHGB, including disciplinary proceedings.

    I hope the Forum’s 76 page report will be made available on line for the extended Yale community. The mere size suggests there is a problem much wider and more serious than the Zeta Psi incident and this year’s email. Does Yale have a problem that is bigger than most other college campuses?

  • Alum

    The fact that a 76 page report was created (I haven’t seen or read it yet) suggests:

    1) that Yale must have a massive sexual harassment problem, deeper and more widespread than any other college campus and worse than any of the high schools its students come from, or

    2) the women Yale accepts are hothouse flowers who are damaged by the existing social climate common to the semi-adult world of college campuses, or

    3) the women’s study graduates who are themselves relatively highly accomplished and powerful women in their own right are the ones who have made it to the Yale and are creating quite an impressive machinery for themselves.

  • @ROFLCOPTER 2

    Do you spend your whole life on the YDN comments board, attacking Yale women?

  • ROFLCOPTER

    No. I also play the world’s tiniest violin.

  • @Alum

    Couldn’t it just mean that Yale is ahead of other schools in taking steps toward making it so a woman in a sexy outfit can have a few drinks and make friends with a guy she just met at a frat party…and have this NOT be a dangerous scenario for her? Perhaps this seems normal to you, such that we shouldn’t try to change it. If so, that makes me sad.

  • Dazed and confused

    #2: where does that report document anything? It talks a lot about definitions, etc., but there is no attempt to say on any empirical basis that this is a serious issue.

    And many of us noticed the gratuitous reference to the accusations against Professor Bloom. The first time Naomi Wolf wrote about that incident, she portrayed as her attempt to seduce him. She did that in writing. So why should we take her seriously later? And why should anyone take that report seriously — since the authors apparently believe that all accusations are true, even when the accuser told a different story in writing earlier, then it seems to me like you don’t want to be taken seriously.

  • td11

    as a girl, this is embarrassing. lets be honest, the girls who choose to dress like sluts and get drunk at frat parties KNOW that they are sending the DTF message. if not, then they need to get a clue and stop being a tease. for real. im sick of all this “concern” for women’s safety. most girls who end up feeling like they might have been harassed probably put themselves in that situation to begin with. boys want sex and girls know it. i find it wrong that women want to both objectify themselves, and at the same time accuse boys of following their lead?

    if someone for real gets raped, then yeah, call the police and file a report, then go to duh. but i feel like harassment in general is open to interpretation and i think its wrong to assume that the boys are always the ones to blame. girls harass boys too, but you dont see them running to the women’s center.

  • Wow

    The issues with violence against women on this campus and abroad are self evident. If you’re genuinely buying into the egalitarian meritocracy business than you’re woefully uneducated and I’d heartily recommend going outside once in a while.
    For those who haven’t dealt with victims of assault on this campus and others and had the experience of seeing them without resources or recourse I strongly encourage you to take a moment to educate yourself before flinging your indolent, smug assertions at this effort to make some real and progressive change to a very damaged system. Concerns are understandable, personal attacks are deplorable.
    td11: dictionary – “slippery slope”

  • td11

    i am educated. i do go out. actually, in my life, i have even been a victim of harassment (not necessarily by yale men) more than a handful of times (ranging from minor verbal harassment all the way to non-consensual sex) so i do know what it’s like. and to be honest, in the most extreme cases, i felt weird for a few days. but talking about it with a couple friends was more than enough for me to realize what specific actions of MINE lead to these dangerous situations, and what I should do differently in the future. i take responsibility for my actions and forgive the faults of others (in all things, really). having experienced a few of the darker things this world has to offer, i feel more aware, realistic, confident, and empowered. my point is this: i challenge the female student body to MAN UP (since we are equals, right?!) and press on in the face of adversity (if you for real have experienced note-worthy/cry-worthy harassment) and show men that they don’t intimidate you. tattling (what you are doing when you try to get someone in trouble) is a sign of weakness (unless you have SERIOUSLY been raped and feel the attacker is a danger to the public). you couldn’t pay me $2000 to go to the women’s center to talk about “things.”

    like i said before, men can be (and surely are) victims of harassment too. but neither the “The Men Faculty Forum Council Report on Sexual Misconduct at Yale” nor “The Men’s Center” exist. how come? aren’t we equals?? what is wrong with this picture! I would argue that men these days may even feel pressured by overly feminist girls to be MORE manly (whatever that may be) in order to feel like equals again! why cant we all just get along?