Levin announces new responses to Title IX probe

In an email to faculty, students and staff Friday, University President Richard Levin listed a series of new measures that will be taken immediately to respond to the federal investigation into allegations of a hostile sexual environment at Yale.

Levin announced the creation of the external Advisory Committee on Campus Climate that will chaired by former Yale Corporation Fellow Margaret H. Marshall LAW ’76. Prominent alumni including former Solicitor General of the United States Seth Waxman LAW ’77 and Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 will sit on the committee.

The committee will advise Levin directly about how the Yale administration can handle sexual misconduct on campus more effectively and the ways it can provide students with a safer, more supportive community, Levin said.

“I am confident that there is more that we can do, and I am grateful to the members of the panel for contributing their time and wise counsel,” he wrote. Levin said he will review the Committee’s recommendations with the Yale Corporation after their report is completed early next fall, after which it will be made available to the public.

In addition, Levin has asked senior Yale officials to join residential college masters and deans at meals in every dining hall during Reading Period after Spring Fling. These meals will be “informal opportunities,” Levin said, for students to talk with administrators such as Yale College Dean Mary Miller and University Secretary Linda Lorimer about Yale’s sexual climate and sexual misconduct policies. Administrators will report back to Levin on the suggestions that come out of these meetings, Levin added, and a similar initiative will take place in the graduate and professional schools.

Levin also explained that administrators have yet to receive a copy of the complaint filed by 16 students and alumni to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Mar. 15, in which they claimed that the University failed to provide equal educational access to women. Yale officials still do not have details of the investigation, he added.

“We will cooperate fully with the Office for Civil Rights in their investigation, but the Officers, the Dean of Yale College, and I believe that we should not await the investigation before asking ourselves how we might improve the policies, practices, and procedures intended to protect members of our community,” Levin said.

Read the full text of Levin’s e-mail below:

April 15, 2011

TO: Faculty, Students, and Staff of Yale University

FROM: Richard C. Levin

As you know, Yale was recently informed by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education that it will be investigating a complaint made by a group of current students and graduates alleging that the University is in violation of Title IX of the Higher Education Act. Title IX mandates that no one be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any federally supported education program on the basis of sex. We have not yet received a copy of the complaint, and the notification from the Office of Civil Rights does not provide details. We believe that the investigation will focus on Yale’s policies and practices concerning sexual harassment and misconduct.

It is imperative that the climate at Yale be free of sexual harassment and misconduct of any kind. The well being of our students and the entire community requires this. Should transgressions occur, they must be addressed expeditiously and appropriately.

We will cooperate fully with the Office of Civil Rights in their investigation, but the Officers, the Dean of Yale College, and I believe that we should not await the investigation before asking ourselves how we might improve the policies, practices, and procedures intended to protect members of our community. I write to describe some of the measures we are taking immediately.

I have appointed an external Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, chaired by Margaret H. Marshall ‘76JD, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a former Fellow of the Yale Corporation. The other members of the Committee are Seth P. Waxman ‘77JD, former Solicitor General of the United States and a partner at WilmerHale LLP; Kimberly M. Goff-Crews ‘83BA, ‘86JD, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at the University of Chicago; and Elizabeth (Libby) H. Smiley ’02BA, former president of the Yale College Council and a director at Barbary Coast Consulting in San Francisco.

I have asked the Committee for advice about how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale, and what additional steps the University might take to create a culture and community in which all of our students are safe and feel well supported. The Committee will spend time listening to members of our community about the situation as they live it and will make its own assessments. We have policies in place, and a number of recommendations developed during the last year are being implemented. Nevertheless, I am confident that there is more that we can do, and I am grateful to the members of the panel for contributing their time and wise counsel.

The Committee will advise me directly, and I will review its recommendations with the Yale Corporation after the report is completed early in the fall semester. After review by the Corporation, the Committee’s recommendations will be made public.

Even as the Committee does its work, I want to take advantage of the remaining weeks of this semester to ensure that student concerns are heard directly by the senior leadership of the University. I am grateful to the Women’s Center for initiating this week a series of dinners with students and administrators. Following this lead, I have asked senior administrators to join with masters and deans over a meal in every college dining hall and in Commons in Reading Period, during the days following Spring Fling when classes do not meet, and when I hope students will take the time to engage in a conversation about the campus climate and our policies governing sexual misconduct. These will be informal opportunities to engage with Deans Mary Miller and Marichal Gentry, Provost Peter Salovey, and Vice President Linda Lorimer, along with your master or dean. I have asked the Provost, Vice President, and Deans to report back to me on the suggestions for improvement that they receive and to share what they have learned with the external Committee as well.

I have also asked the Deans of the Graduate and Professional Schools to ensure that similar conversations occur in each school.

The deepest values of our institution compel us to take very seriously the issues raised by the complaint brought to the Office of Civil Rights. We welcome this opportunity to learn from our community and from best practices elsewhere to protect all who study and work here.

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