Yale acts on sex grievance overhaul

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.)

Comments

  • concerned

    Since Yale is facing an effective claim worth $500,000,000 + on the campus climate issues they’ve already created for women students, it is simply more foolhardiness for officials to now lead the campus to focus on expectations for a copy of “the actual complaint” from DOE. Please change your PR and legal strategies and get to work on fixing the problems in front of you–because the meter is ticking.

    Regardless of any single professor’s opinion, sexual harassment at Yale is not taken seriously and plenty of students have already been damaged.

  • Branford73

    The notion that federal grants to Yale will be withdrawn is ludicrous. The economic costs will be the internal effort and outside legal fees to deal with the complaint. I doubt the DOE investigators will give a ringing endorsement to Yale’s handling of these issues. After all, even if Yale’s procedures already comply with the newly announced guidelines, DOE will need to justify agreeing to take the case. The final solution will likely be some kind of consent order wherein Yale agrees to do xyz, which may or may not be meaningful or satisfactory to the complainants. To the extent that Yale’s internal handling of sexual assault complaints needs tweaking or overhauliing that will be a good thing.

    If the focus of the investigation and recommendations of the investigators concern the offensive frat chants and picture taking stunts, I would hope that Yale would stand up for free speech principals. I am not confident that it will do so because that would mean an extended fight into the courts, expensive and bad PR. Protecting free speech which is offensive is not valued very highly by majorities and Yale generally has paid lip service only to free speech values. It’s probably not going to spend a million dollars on legal fees and if push comes to shove with DOE, Yale will cave in some manner while espousing its belief in free speech with responsibility.

  • YaleFan2011

    How many committees does this school need?

  • annwoolliams

    TITLE 1X appears to entitle equality.Therefore women may ‘legally’ behave as badly as men.
    It does not rule that men must behave in a proper manner around women.
    Yet, seldom do women choose to mirror male coarseness and in the past they were possibly described as the ‘fairer’ or ‘gentler’ sex because of it.

    A fair and simple (albeit ‘old fashioned’) resolve, would be if men behaved like gentlemen and women behaved like ladies and showed tolerance and consideration for the feelings of others.
    When I first read about this dilemma my immediate thought was; l’d be so
    ashamed if i was the parent of a boy behaving in such an offensive manner.

    it does seem a shame that Yale University may have to waste some obscene amount of money that could have benefited some far less fortunate people.