When harsh criticism of our university goes so public so quickly, the urge to endorse or condemn is hard to resist. However, it is difficult to fully judge the Title IX case until we know more about the complaint itself.
The initiative shown by its framers is promising and inspiring. Whatever the result, their action shows that our administration cannot always take refuge in campus apathy when their principles and practice fail to match. Individual activism like theirs is worth promoting. Further, broader-based efforts will better effect communal change, not governmental fiat. We hope that the Title IX complainants will bring the rest of us into the fold in their efforts. And for the rest of us to become involved, we must learn more about the complaint itself.
In the aftermath of the Pundits’ pre-tap party, this newspaper editorialized in favor of reforming the Executive Committee, a body that better hides sexual assault than punishes it. We agree with the Title IX complainants’ specific criticism of Yale’s “inadequate response[s]” to episodes of sexual assault.
But we must reaffirm that the responsibility to respond to sexual intimidation does not fall solely on the shoulders of administrators or individual activists, but also on the campus community at large. And as the Title IX debate draws media buzz and reporters converge on DKE’s front porch, we must remember that sexual misconduct reaches beyond fraternities and athletics. If they are our scapegoats, the case will ring hollow.
The Title IX complainants have commendably refused to allow issues of sexual culture on-campus to be swept under the rug; they call upon the administration to institute a more transparent process. Thus, we ask that they in turn deal more transparently with the Yale community. They should allow more information about the Title IX complaint to be released, with victims’ and accused perpetrators’ identities and sensitive testimony removed. If the case is not transparent, it will not be inclusive.
There are legal reasons for keeping the complaint or sections of it private. But understanding the nature of the allegations — whether aimed at ExComm punishments, undergraduate regulations, transparency, or liability — would be beneficial, even if specific details must remain hidden. So far, we have accusations leveled at fraternities. If Yale’s sexual culture has produced instances of administrative neglect, they must be made available to Yale’s leaders and students. If the complaint describes how ExComm failed to adequately handle specific cases — information that has consistently been kept under wraps — we will have new and invaluable motivation.
With cameras rolling, Katie Couric commentating, and the blogosphere buzzing, the national news media has descended once again. The coverage has been splashy — bordering on sensational. Yet, all the sound and fury of the media blitz seems disembodied. With more information, discussion would prove far more productive. Students, faculty and the media should not be left guessing, either by the Department of Education or the administration.
The project of reforming Yale’s sexual culture is a formidable one. It cannot be shouldered by three public complainants, 13 anonymous ones, the Department of Education, ExComm, the Yale administration or even Joe Biden. It is a responsibility that must fall on our community as a whole. Yale has a right to know more — and knowing must inspire us to act.