Administrators sent a flurry of updates about a federal investigation into the University’s alleged violations of Title IX to the Yale community Wednesday night, among them a message announcing a new campus-wide grievance procedure.
Provost Peter Salovey announced in an email to faculty Wednesday night that the new University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct — which has been in the works since last summer — will take effect July 1. The new committee, which will be chaired by philosophy professor Michael Della Rocca, will unify the separate grievance boards of Yale’s 14 schools, including Yale College’s Sexual Harassment Grievance Board.
“Building upon the existing processes of the College and each of the schools, the UWC is designed to address allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct of every kind, and will be available to all students and faculty across the University,” Salovey said in his email, which was obtained by the News.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller told the News Wednesday night that it will take about a year to completely transition to the University-Wide Committee from the smaller bodies. The announcement of the new committee has been planned for some time, University President Richard Levin said, though news of the federal investigation “might have speeded it up by a week.”
Miller added that the new committee will have a “professional fact finder,” trained to analyze the sometimes unclear concept of consent.
Current sexual harassment procedures, Miller said, do not give clear guidance about how to proceed if sexual misconduct occurs between members of different schools within the University.
“We do not have an obvious place to deal with transgressions by members of one school with another, and now we will,” Miller said.
While the students who filed the complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said the activation of the University-Wide Committee is “a step toward the right direction,” they said it still does not correct other inadequacies in the process.
“It’s exciting to see before the OCR investigation that the campus is already experiencing serious change, but it’s still not enough — we have a long way to go,” said complainant Alexandra Brodsky ’12.
Just minutes after Salovey sent his announcement of the University-Wide Committee to faculty, Miller told the Yale community in an email that the University has requested a copy of the “actual complaint” from the OCR under the Freedom of Information Act — a federal law which allows access to government documents — but that administrators have yet to receive more details about the upcoming investigation.
“We assume we’ll be granted it,” she said of the FOIA request, “but the timeline is up in the air.”
In the email, Miller also encouraged students who have experienced or witnessed episodes of sexual misconduct to first contact the Yale Police Department and to seek support from various resources on campus, such as masters and deans, cultural house leaders and freshmen counselors. Though the investigation has sparked “sensational headlines,” she pointed out that problems of sexual misconduct at Yale also exist at many other institutions across the United States.
“I think that the entire understanding … of sexual misconduct is evolving,” she told the News Wednesday night. “We are part of the larger national understanding.”
Title IX is a 1972 law requiring educational institutions that receive federal funding to offer equal opportunity to male and female students.
Alison Griswold and Drew Henderson contributed reporting.
Correction: April 7, 2011
An earlier version of this article misquoted Yale College Dean Mary Miller as saying that all sexual grievance boards in Yale’s 14 schools would disband. In fact, Miller was referring only to Yale College’s Sexual Harassment Grievance Board. (On Thursday, Assistant Provost for the Humanities Brian Lizotte ’00 LAW ’06 told the News that all boards except the Law School’s will disband.)