BREAKING: DOE’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate Yale for “hostile sexual environment”

UPDATED: 7:57 p.m. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights announced it would open an investigation of the University “for its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX,” according to a press release written by the complainants received Thursday afternoon by the News.

The measure comes after a formal complaint was filed by 16 Yale students and alumni on Mar. 15, informing the Office for Civil Rights about Yale’s breach of Title IX by citing a slew of “inadequate response[s]” to public episodes of sexual misconduct on campus, such as the controversial Delta Kappa Epsilon incident last fall. The complaint also condemns the University through anonymous testimonies that attest to Yale’s inappropriate approach to private instances of sexual misconduct and assault.

“After all the incidents of blatant sexual harassment and threatening behavior on Yale’s campus, why must it take an investigation by OCR to convince Yale that there is a serious problem on campus?,” the release said.

The DOE declined to comment on the case Thursday evening.

Read the full press release below, written by a subset of the 16 involved and in consultation with lawyers.

Check back for more updates.

On March 31, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced an investigation of Yale University for its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX. The investigation follows a complaint filed by a group of sixteen Yale students and alumni on March 15, 2011 notifying OCR of Yale’s violation of Title IX due to the University’s failure to eliminate this hostile sexual environment on campus.

The complaint recounts Yale’s inadequate response to a long trend of public sexual harassment on Yale’s campus. The most recent and egregious occurrence was on the night of October 13, 2010 when a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledges surrounded by brothers from the same fraternity loudly chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” outside Old Campus, the area on Yale’s campus where most freshman women live. A band of loud men shouting threatening and pornographic language at the home of young freshman women creates a hostile environment, thereby limiting women’s equal access to educational opportunities at Yale.

Other instances of sexual harassment at Yale include the September 2009 so-called “Preseason scouting report” email in which a group of male Yale students widely circulated a list of fifty-three freshman women ranking them in order of how many beers it would take to have sex with them. On of January 16, 2008 a group of pledges from the Zeta Psi fraternity surrounded the entrance to the Yale Women’s Center at midnight holding signs bearing the message, “We Love Yale Sluts.”

The complaint also discusses Yale’s failure to appropriately address several instances of private sexual harassment and assault. Under Title IX, universities are required to provide adequate guidance and support for students who report harassment or assault. Anonymous testimonies detail the manner in which the university has failed to comply with this obligation.

The Yale students and alumni who filed the complaint with OCR believe that Yale’s failure to effectively address the October 2010 DKE incident, as well as numerous earlier incidents like it, has allowed a hostile sexual environment to persist on campus. This pervasive hostile environment has limited Yale women’s equal access to educational opportunities in violation of Title IX.

The complainants’ request that OCR investigate came after Dean of Yale College Mary Miller announced Yale’s response to the DKE incident. The University’s response was based on a report issued in December 2010 by the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Prevention, commissioned in the wake of the 2008 “We Love Yale Sluts” incident. This response, which was originally meant to address the “We Love Yale Sluts” incident and not the recent and more threatening DKE incident, focuses merely on developing educational programs and providing clinical services to Yale students accused of sexual misconduct. The response does not address the need for disciplinary measures, nor does it address the threatening and assaultive language used by the DKE brothers, thereby failing to adequately address the hostile environment on campus.

If OCR investigators find Yale to be out of compliance with Title IX, Yale will be required to eliminate the current hostile sexual environment on campus and institute measures to prevent incidents of sexual harassment like the DKE chanting from occurring in the future.

After all the incidents of blatant sexual harassment and threatening behavior on Yale’s campus, why must it take an investigation by OCR to convince Yale that there is a serious problem on campus?

Clarification: March 31, 2011

An earlier version of this story said that the press release was written by a subset of the 16 complainants and their lawyers. It was in fact written in consultation with lawyers; they are not currently retaining legal counsel.

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