The committee created to review changes to Yale’s sexual harassment policy is fully staffed and already at work on a list of recommendations, including a centralized grievance board, committee chair and philosophy professor Michael Della Rocca said.
Made up of representatives from the Provost’s Office, the Office of the General Counsel and five of Yale’s professional schools, the committee was charged with examining the 76-page Women Faculty Forum Report on Sexual Misconduct at Yale, released in October, and has been at work since the second week of the semester, Della Rocca said. It will submit a report to Provost Peter Salovey in May, recommending which of the Women Faculty Forum report’s policy proposals — which include the adoption of the umbrella term “sexual misconduct” in place of the more limited “sexual harassment” in University regulations and the streamlining of Yale’s multiple, varied sexual harassment policies and grievance boards — would be most appropriate for Yale.
Salovey said the committee is taking seriously the Women Faculty Forum’s recommendations, which included the creation of the committee.
“We charged this committee in a way that was suggested by the Women Faculty Forum report itself,” Salovey said, adding that the Women Faculty Forum urged the University to appoint a committee to review its recommendations and their potential implementation across the University.
Since the committee began its work, the members have focused their research on one of the central proposals in the Women Faculty Forum’s report: creating a University-wide sexual misconduct grievance board to replace the independent boards of Yale College and the graduate and professional schools, Della Rocca said. Research into similar bodies at peer universities has proven useful for the committee, Della Rocca said, adding that he has already spoken with representatives from other schools about their own sexual misconduct policies.
Della Rocca said the committee has also begun “informal” conversations about its agenda with Yale community members, including undergraduates, and will conduct more formal interviews as its list of policy recommendations develops.
Women Faculty Forum report co-author and School of Management professor Connie Bagley, who began pushing for the formation of the committee soon after the Women Faculty Forum published its report, said she thinks the committee seems to be taking its duties seriously. If the committee can complete its report by the end of the semester as Della Rocca and Salovey predicted, Bagley said, she expects to see concrete policy changes in place by as soon as September.
“If their report is as direct and accurate as possible, it will save time,” Bagley said. “It is my hope to have everything in place by the time we start the 2010-’11 school year.”
The members of the committee do not know how quickly the University intends to act on this semester’s recommendations, Della Rocca said, or whether the committee will disband at the end of the year. Once the committee submits its findings to Salovey in the spring, the matter will be out of the committee’s hands.
“It will be up to the Provost’s Office to see how any changes will be implemented,” Della Rocca said.
In order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, no representatives from the Women Faculty Forum sit on the committee, Bagley said. But the Women Faculty Forum recently met with the committee to discuss the Forum’s own report, and is supplying the committee with the background research the Forum used. Bagley also said she has met with Della Rocca several times to discuss the committee’s work.
Della Rocca said the committee is also taking the May 2008 Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education report into consideration. Written by a group of administrators and released to students Sept. 2, the SHAPE report also suggested the formation of a committee to review Yale’s sexual harassment policies.