Students, admins react to Title IX complaint

Days after the federal government opened an investigation into the University for possibly violating Title IX, most students and officials are still in the dark about what the probe means for Yale.

On Friday, University administrators broke the silence they maintained in the 24 hours after a group of 16 student and alumni complainants announced the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigation into whether Yale allowed a hostile sexual climate to persist. Such action may have violated Title IX, which requires educational institutions to provide equal opportunity to women and men and prohibits gender discrimination. Still, their comments were limited to public acknowledgements of the investigation and a review of the University’s efforts to promote a safe environment.

University spokesman Tom Conroy said in an official statement Friday that administrators had been verbally briefed by the Office for Civil Rights about its investigation.

“We have not yet received a copy of the complaint, and we therefore are not able to comment on it at this time,” Conroy said, adding that Yale officials plan to respond and cooperate with the investigation.

A day after Yale administrators were notified about the investigation, Yale College Dean Mary Miller echoed Conroy’s statement in an e-mail sent to the Yale community Friday. She also cited several committees, reports and other measures taken by the University toward correcting sexual misconduct on campus in the past three years.

“Yale is notable, in fact, for the extraordinary number and range of initiatives, programs of study, working groups, faculty and student organizations, and administrative offices devoted to the advancement of women and women’s issues,” she said.

When “questionable incidents” have occurred, Miller added, the University has used its available resources to determine suitable responses and disciplinary action where warranted.

Alexandra Brodsky ’12
Alexandra Brodsky ’12
Hannah Zeavin ’12 and other complainants were inspired by the landmark Alexander v. Yale case of 1980.
Photo by Esther Zuckerman
Hannah Zeavin ’12 and other complainants were inspired by the landmark Alexander v. Yale case of 1980.

But cosignatories of the complaint interviewed strongly disagreed with Miller’s assertion that Yale “does not and will not tolerate sexual harassment.”

Complainant Hannah Zeavin ’12 said she is pleased with the University’s intention to cooperate with the Office for Civil Rights’ investigation, but added that she does not think Yale holds a no-tolerance stance toward sexual misconduct as it claims.

“It’s not a zero-tolerance policy, but a tolerance policy,” Zeavin said.

Moreover, the existence of the committees and groups Miller referenced — as well as existing disciplinary bodies — have not provided much help to students, said complainant Alexandra Brodsky ’12.

The idea of pursuing a Title IX complaint originated one month after a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges chanted misogynist slogans such as “No means yes, yes means anal” on Old Campus in October, Zeavin said. She referred the DKE episode as “the last straw” in a long chain of public and private instances of sexual misconduct in recent years.

The group was inspired by Alexander v. Yale, Zeavin said, the landmark 1980 lawsuit which resulted in the establishment of sexual harassment grievance procedures on college campuses — but the complainants did not want to take their case to open court.

Brodsky said the group of complainants sought advice from various sources, including a Title IX lawyer, after more students and alumni joined the effort.

“The feeling was this conviction that we needed some help from outside,” Brodsky said. “The source that we were appealing to was the source of the problem as well. It’s really easy for Yale to ignore us.”

Ten of 16 students interviewed said they did not believe the Title IX complaint was warranted. Beyond the 16 interviewed, five students refused to comment because they said they were not adequately informed of the motives behind the complaint.

“I hope Yale is not allowing the actions of a few disgusting individuals to dictate how the campus feels [about the sexual climate],” said Sarah Landers ’11, who does not support the complaint.

Alexander Caron ’13 said he hopes the complainants’ efforts set a precedent for addressing the nation-wide problem of sexual harassment on colleges campuses.

Still, others said they don’t consider Yale to be as hostile as the complaint suggests.

“I personally haven’t had any problems with sexual harassment at Yale,” said Sophia Babai ’14. “That’s the kind of thing [where] you need one or two people to be affected for it to be a problem.”

Zeavin acknowledged that the complaint never states that sexual assault or harassment is a reality for every Yale student. Additionally, Brodsky said the complaint is also not an attempt to deprive Yale of its federal funding.

Zeavin said she has received around 100 emails expressing support for the complaint, including messages from many alumni detailing instances in which Yale failed to protect them from sexual misconduct.

“I can’t help but think that the complaint has given them a voice,” Zeavin said. ”And I can’t help but think that the complaint was the right choice.”

Both Zeavin and Brodsky said they were reassured by the Office for Civil Rights’ decision to open an investigation based on their complaint, since only one-third of all complaints filed with the office are investigated.

In the next month, investigators from the Office for Civil Rights will perform a “climate check” at Yale, collecting student testimony and mediating conversations between the complainants and University administrators.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    **Men don’t get it.**

    **And a generation that trivializes Freud doesn’t get it.**

    The male reproductive equipment is associated symbolically with **VIRTUALLY EVERY** weapon ever conceived (pardon the pun) : stick, bat, sword, pistol, cannon, rocket, the H-bomb.

    Men are taught from infancy by their bodies that they are ***violence personified***, and that they are leaders. (protruders)

    Why else is death row populated primarily by males?

    Males have to work at overcoming these **BIOLOGICALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY DETERMINED
    BIASES.**

    *Sometimes they need a mediator: Like Title IX.*

    PK

  • attila

    PK gets up early to write all this crazy stuff…

  • Inigo_Montoya

    It’s easy to find male sexual symbols when every stick or ball counts. Whatever you think of Freud, that isn’t even Freud. That’s the sophomoric kid in an English lit section (‘cept PK’s apparently baby boomer with an M.Div., not a sophomore). Sticks and balls happen to be pretty useful for killing people. You invent a hole-shaped object that deals death on an unprecedented scale and/or with unprecedented efficiency, and I guarantee you the US military will adopt it in a heartbeat.

    On a more serious note, though, I want to echo what another commenter said in another thread. It’s trivializing to spend a comment thread about real allegations of sexual misconduct spouting half-baked pop- and pseudo- psychoanalysis. PK, part of you must know this, which makes me wonder why you do it. One potential answer, I suppose, is a psychoanalytic one: narcissistic character.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Call it pop-psychology if you wish.

    The over-arching Freudian axiom is “There are no accidents in the life of the mind.” No other axiom equally or more adequately explains human behavior.

    I don’t see parades of WOMEN traipsing around campus in front of residence halls, protruding descriptions of the behavior of their body parts into the public sphere .

    Maybe the Title IX investigators will find some.

  • howardn

    Inigo, A black hole is the most destructive (and possibly creative) force in the universe, or in Freudian terms, “Sex in a singularity.”

  • The Anti-Yale

    No. Safe-sex (self-sex) is “Sex in singularity.”

  • Inigo_Montoya

    Ah, but howard, a black hole is actually no hole, but rather a compact and extremely dense mass, ie. a ball. See how easy (and stupid/useless) it is to play this game?

  • DCHeretic

    Universities have an obligation to protect their students. They also have an obligation to protect free speech. While the recent antics of frat boys are indeed vulgar and distasteful, they do not rise to the level of harassment or pervasiveness to warrant action against the fraternities or the university administration. There is no law that compels men to respect women or women to respect men. The US Supreme Court, as recently as the Westboro Baptist Church decision last month, has consistently affirmed that hate speech is protected speech. As it should be.

    Now a more serious matter that requires further investigation is the allegation that the university does not adequately address sexual assaults or genuine harassment that targets an individual. Hopefully the university has responded appropriately and fairly to such allegations and accusers have made good faith use of the many avenues available to report sexual assault and harassment. Remember, however, that an accusation is not the same as a conviction and just because someone has been accused of assualt or harassment does not make him or her guilty.

    Alum 1995

  • pickle

    Women are extremely powerful, in and of their own nature. I think it scares our other half immensely to acknowledge this. Imagine if your whole life you were used to feeling more significant than half of any co-ed room you walked into simply by default. Now imagine being faced with the possibility of losing that power or “that right” which in many cases is the key to male success. Oppression is always a fear based initiative.

  • uncommons

    Actually, Pickle, most of us don’t feel more significant than “half of any co-ed room.” As for the fear, it’s more cooties based.

  • DCHeretic

    Uncommons post above is correct. The broad stereotyping of men is irrational and offensive.

  • mc11

    +1 DCHeretic and uncommons

    @pickle: Most of us aren’t rapists, most of us aren’t misogynists, most of us don’t think we are “more significant” by default, most of us aren’t the problem. But when you paint us all the same color, you give the bad guys an easy place to hide.

    All generalizations are bad.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “The US Supreme Court, as recently as the Westboro Baptist Church decision last month, has consistently affirmed that hate speech is protected speech. ”

    I believe that the stipulation here was that hate speech is protected at a funeral as long as it occurs across the street from the Church (or in Yale’s case, the residence hall) and not in front of it.

  • peconic

    Clearly, a show trial is in order!

  • peconic

    @PK: I have some ironing that I need done. Are you busy later?

  • pickle

    Really though,as a male, you are are privileged, and whether or not you recognize or acknowledge it’s “significance”, really doesn’t matter. The culture of the demographic of which you are a part is inherently hostile towards women, which in some ways I think is more damaging than the acts of individuals who play out these entitlements to the detriment of us all. Have you read many of the posts regarding the “IX” articles? I don’t see any rebuttals to the posts clearly advocating violence against women and yet, you respond immediately to a post that questions the validity of male privilege. You really have made my point for me. The content of my post scares you.

  • ShaveTheWhales

    @pickle: That is incredibly misguided and wrong to think that “the culture of the demographic [of males] is inherently hostile towards women…” As was stated before, your words are generalizations of the entire male demographic, and possible equally as damaging as DKE’s hate speech.

  • pickle

    If there were ever a time in history of civilization when women were not preyed upon by men, I might feel differently.

  • Branford73

    Pickle is just using the Women’s Studies mantra of “male privilege”, of course, not acknowledging the huge privilege position Yale women as well as men have as students in an Ivy bubble. We may hear next that Yale is fighting to save the patriarchy. Valuing free speech higher than bruised sensibilities is not a sign of male privilege, unless you want to take the position that by virtue of being male our feelings are not as easily hurt by offensive speech.

    Those who haven’t seen it ought to read the comment posted by ‘skeptic’ after Gasso’s article “University Responds . . .” at on April 3, 2011 at 12:10 a.m. (This might be the link to it. http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/apr/01/university-responds-title-ix-complaint/#c48385 ) It describes how Yale responds to internal complaints of sexual assault. It also confirms my suspicion that the claim of Yale’s poor process of dealing with sexual assault claims is a spurious hook to get DOE’s attention and that the real purpose is to seek chastisement of Yale for it’s failure to suspend the frat boy students or somehow to suspend the frats themselves. The complainants simply cannot accept Yale’s having looked at the incidents and deciding to educate rather than punish. What a novel concept for a university.

    It is an attempt to have the federal government declare that hate speech not only can be punished but should be punished, the failure to do so being promotion of a sexually hostile environment detrimental to education. In a way, I admire their resourcefulness, since they have managed to mobilize the government to their will. However, I hope they fail and fail spectacularly.

  • The Anti-Yale

    What’s ironing?

  • Skeptic

    i have recently been told, by individuals I believe have first-hand knowledge, that 1) the board of the Women’s Center refused to sign-on to the complaint, and 2) the complainants did not provide Yale with a copy of their complaint (a common courtesy in such matters), and that Yale has had to file an FOI request to see the complaint in order to comment on it (the bureaucratic wheels turning so slowly that the formal provision of the complaint by the Feds would not come for a long time, hampering Yale’s ability to respond quickly enough to avoid looking like they were uncaring or stonewalling)… Tacky, tacky. And was the timing of the complaint and the press release from the complainants simply coincidental with the national college admission decision date? Hmmm…

  • Branford73

    Of course the claimants were inspired by Alexander v. Yale. Ann Olivarius ’77 was one of the plaintiffs in that suit, which lost on the District Court and Court of Appeals levels. Anybody want to take any bets that Chase is a plaintiff in this one? Oh, and I understand Catherine Mackinnon was a key advisor to the plaintiffs in that case.

  • justathought

    I’m not saying this complaint is frivolous, but as a female Yalie who’s still undecided, Brodsky sure just made it look so. http://bit.ly/eBTWOX

  • justathought
  • charlesgyer

    “The group was inspired by Alexander v. Yale, Zeavin said, the landmark 1980 lawsuit which resulted in the establishment of sexual harassment grievance procedures on college campuses — but the complainants did not want to take their case to open court.”

    Because they would lose in open court.

  • mc11

    @pickle, the posts advocating violence against women are unquestionably part of the problem. I never denied that I am unfortunately granted advantages in our society because I’m male, but that wasn’t the content of your post to which I was responding. You presumed to know what I, as a man, think about society’s gender bias, and based on that assumed that I (and all men) are the problem. You force all men to defend themselves with your broad accusations instead of fighting the real problem. Men are not the problem. Some men are the problem.

  • pickle

    I said nothing about what you think.

  • pickle

    And… for the record… I have no affiliation with Yale.

  • BigBlueMan

    I suspect that the frequency of sexual assault at Yale is well within the normal range for national universities, but that the reaction to these acts is far greater at Yale than on average (could be wrong, but this is a possibility). I actually found Yale a sexually oppressive environment for males, where often females would flaunt and delight in the fact that for many males, consensual sex is an impossibility and sexual advances could be treated as grounds for discipline. I have experienced several instances of relational aggression, in which females made light of my painful sexual situation in an attempt to hurt or punish me. Worse yet, the university support network for those suffering from the psychological burden of sexual frustration is practically nonexistent. I suffered continuously from severe depression at Yale due largely to sexual frustration, and the university completely turned its back on me. By all standards I was academically successful, athletic and hard-working, but still completely worthless to the opposite sex at Yale and could do nothing about it. Yale females were extremely effective at isolating me— so much so I came to believe that sexual assault was nearly impossible there. Then I started going out more and it all made sense: the people rumored to be perpetrators of sexual assault were also those rumored to sleep around all the time or belong to Team X or Frat Y. I think Yale is not responsible for creating a sexually hostile environment but has been unfairly targeted by the media due to its high profile.

  • Branford73

    BBM, it’s hard to blame Yale women for assuming frat guys are unacceptably sexually aggressive when groups of frat men repeatedly and publicly exhibited offensive sexually aggressive speech. You reap what your group sews.

    If you suffered “severe” depression I doubt the extremely common phenomenon of sexual frustration in 18-22 year old men was a significant cause. Severe depression of stressed college kids is certainly a problem, often because the severely depressed have difficulty seeking help. As a male member of the first coeducation class (the ratio of men to women in our class was 4:1 and 7:1 campus-wide in our freshman year) I am familiar with the former you describe and as a parent of a student who suspended his/her education for a year from clinical depression, I am familiar with the latter.

  • BigBlueMan

    I expected that someone would tell me that my problem is common, is not a serious one and/or doesn’t exist. That is completely in line with my Yale experience. I do have reason (which will not be disclosed here) to believe that the behavioral manifestations of my struggle to cope with frustration are signs of a potentially debilitating condition. I also think that the behaviors I exhibit as a direct response to frustration are quite particular to me, and I do not blame Yale women at all. However, I do feel that my psychological welfare should have been better accounted for at Yale. I have gone to a counseling session in an attempt to explain my situation, and I feel that I was dismissed. The big sib system is completely inadequate to deal with all but a handful of situations (mine not being one of them). I feel like a huge part of the story of the sexual climate at Yale that some find oppressive is being neglected. Compare the number of official emails from the dean or YDN articles on sexual harassment to the number relating to sex addiction or sexual rage disorder and you may see my point.

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