Positive Title IX effects hoped for

Before administrators announced progress towards overhauling Yale’s sexual grievance procedures, University President Richard Levin suggested that the University has room to improve in its response to sexual grievances.

When asked about the University’s procedures for responding to instances of sexual misconduct on campus in recent years, Levin said he would not generalize.

“In some cases, cases [were] dealt with effectively, in some cases [the University’s response] took longer than it should have,” Levin said. “There are certainly some cases we have had where processes could have moved faster.”

Levin later clarified his position, stating he did not “know enough to say our processes have worked perfectly in every single case, but that would be our hope.”

In response to the Title IX complaint filed by 16 students and alumni that accuses Yale of allowing a hostile sexual environment to persist on campus, Levin said the investigation into Yale’s sexual climate gives administrators the chance to review and update its grievance procedures and practices.

“We want our policies to be compliant with national policy and, even more important, supportive of our students,” Levin said. “We’re going to take a close look to see if there are improvements to be made. [If there are,] then we’ll make them.”

Three faculty members interviewed said the investigation could have a positive outcome for the University.

Amy Ahasic ’96 MED ’00, a School of Medicine instructor in pulmonary medicine, said that if students and alumni were compelled to file the complaint against Yale for a particular reason, the University has a chance to assess its current stance towards instances of misconduct. Administrators could benefit from reexamining whether they are sufficiently educating students about sexual misconduct and providing them with sufficient resources for victims, as well as evaluating whether they address complaints in a timely manner, she said.

In the past week, administrators have repeatedly referred to their limited knowledge of the complaint, and ten faculty members interviewed Wednesday declined to comment due to a lack of information about the complaint — which the University has requested under the Freedom of Information Act — and Yale’s policies. Two professors expressed opposition to the complaint, stating that mediation from the federal government is unwarranted.

“My impression is that Yale takes sexual harassment complaints very seriously,” said English professor Leslie Brisman. “No move outside the University was necessary.”

Chemical engineering professor Eric Altman said he had not seen evidence that suggests that Yale administrators allow a hostile environment toward women to exist on campus.

Four professors said that losing funding as punishment for failing to comply with Title IX — which prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding — would harm the University. But two of them added that protecting Yale’s federal funding is a lower priority than correcting any inadequacies in the University’s response to sexual misconduct.

“Funding is heavily critical to what we do in our field,” said Sterling Professor of Chemistry John Tully ’64. “On the other hand, we’re part of a University that needs to put its students first and foremost, and if there’s a group of students that is discriminated to some extent, that needs to come first.”

While it is difficult for Yale to disclose information related to sexual harassment on campus — in part because of federal privacy restrictions — Tully said the community has a right to know if sexual offenders are disciplined by the administration.

For the first time since it was written in 1972, Title IX was clarified last week in a “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to schools receiving federal funding.

Drew Henderson contributed reporting.

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