Saporta: A justified claim

The bureaucratic and careless way in which Yale has been known to handle cases of private sexual assault on campus has certainly been overshadowed by the more attention-grabbing and headline-friendly public forms of sexual harassment — ones often carried out by Yale fraternities over the past few years. On March 15, 16 Yale students filed a formal complaint under Title IX against Yale University, and Thursday the campus was informed that the Department of Education will be investigating the University. While many on campus have voiced support, unsurprisingly not all reactions have been positive. Many students feel that so much focus on public incidents of sexual harassment, which they see as examples of “boys being boys,” takes away from what they feel is the far more pressing matter of physical sexual assault on campus. But they fail to see the connection between public acts of misogyny and private acts of violence.

This connection works in two ways. First, when Yale responds belatedly and inadequately to public acts of sexism like DKE, it sends a message to its students that sexual aggression and disrespect for women will be tolerated on this campus. Not only does this pave the way for future acts, but it also condones an attitude that is conducive to private acts of sexual violence. Do you think DKE would have chanted this fall if Zeta Psi had been disciplined for the “We Love Yale Sluts” disaster?

Secondly, Yale’s lenient and slow response to these acts mirrors its reluctance to respond with haste and appropriate force to private incidences. Yale has a tendency to hold off dealing with any such conflict by pretending to push through wads of red tape. In doing so, the University allows the media uproar to die down, just in time for the perpetrators to be let off the hook. This has been the case for the most recent public forms of sexual assault. But what many people don’t know is that this is also the way in which Yale handles private sexual assault: Yale’s slowness and bureaucracy hurts both the victim and the accused, who are made to wait for months before a verdict is reached. Apparently, Yale is more concerned with its public image than with the well-being of its students. What is important to remember, though, is that we will all benefit from OCR’s investigation.

As many students have said before, this complaint asks for Yale to re-evaluate its priorities. Only this time, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, and hopefully the larger public, will join in the request, with the force of federal law behind them. Is asking for justice, both publicly and privately, really too much?

Adriel Saporta is a senior in Trumbull College.


  • MC13

    Thank you, Adriel, for making this important and too often overlooked connection. Yale’s response to public acts of sexual harassment has a direct effect on the private lives of many (I might argue all) students, and I’m glad the DOE is finally forcing Yale into a conversation about it.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Feminists have ignored the pioneer of date rape for fifty years.

  • Branford73

    If Yale’s handling of private rape complaints is inadequate or too slow, that should be addressed and corrected. It will be interesting to see if DOE will report on the university’s handling of such complaints.

    But you haven’t demonstrated that there is a connection between increased tolerance of disrespectful public statements and increased private sexual assault. Has there in fact been an increase in private sexual assualt over the past seven years? You’ve made the point that tolerance of stupid, disrespectful and distasteful public statements means that further stupid, disrespectful and distasteful statements will be made. Unfortunately, criticism of stupid and distasteful remarks often does not stop them. Otherwise we might not still have Westboro Baptist Church demonstrations or Michelle Bachman in public office.

  • eli1

    If you are so concerned about the university’s response to private sexual assault, why were none of these instances present in the title ix suit? Instead, the only events cited were stupid fraternity jokes where NO sexual assaults actually occurred? Maybe you should stop hunting down all fraternities and instead focus your attention to situations in which real life sexual assault is actually taking place.

  • MC13

    @eli1: In addition to the larger public fiascos, the complaint does include a section of complaints about private, “real life” instances of sexual harassment and assault. And to imply that “stupid fraternity jokes” are NOT “real life sexual assault” is to completely miss the point of this piece.

  • Branford73

    MC13, I would go beyond implying that such speech is not assault and state affirmatively that it is not. To imply that the stupid fraternity jokes of the chanting and the “love sluts” photo ARE real sexual assaults is delusional and trivializes real sexual assaults.

    The point of the piece was to assert that allowing such speech contributes to sexual assault. It produces no evidence that this is so, but of course you or anyone is free to take the assertion as an article of faith. The rest of us need to be persuaded by evidence.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Sex Week at Yale to be replaced by Holden Caulfield Week at Yale



  • RachelAchs

    Well said Adriel. I think, especially, that the amount of time that the University takes to respond to these complaints is one of the biggest problems with the way sexual misconduct is handled at Yale. A long, opaque process of delays and inefficient fact-finding causes students who are already suffering trauma to suffer even more. I’m glad you pointed that out.

  • tdushane

    I graduated Yale in 1967 (two years before women were undergrads). Even then, the fraternities were a beacon of intolerance and misogyny. Even then, I was proud that I had not set foot on fraternity row until my junior year (my probability professor, curiously enough, wanted me to see some of the “less academic side of Yale” so he took me for a walk there). So, I can vouch that, at least for those of us who were serious about studying and had some sense of social justice, the fraternities were a distasteful outlier rather disconnected from the main academic and social life of the College.

    So I, for one, consider the critical evaluation of the appropriateness of these fraternities for Yale at least 48 years overdue.

    There were individual exceptions, as there always will are: Lanny Davis (yes, the political pundit who was Chairman of the Daily and later President Clinton’s lawyer and close confidante) was in a fraternity – actually the same one as George W. Bush. We all recognized Lanny as one of the brightest students we knew.