New committee advises on “campus climate”

On Friday, University President Richard Levin unveiled a new set of measures in response to a federal investigation into allegations of a hostile sexual environment at Yale.

In an afternoon email to faculty, students and staff, Levin announced the creation of an external “Advisory Committee on Campus Climate.” Levin said the committee will advise him directly about how the Yale administration can handle sexual misconduct on campus more effectively. Though it is meant to help the University evaluate its sexual grievance guidelines, Levin added in an interview, the committee is not intended to supplement the upcoming investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“It’s really something entirely different,” Levin told the News Sunday night. “The [OCR] investigation will undoubtedly be an inquiry into the factual basis for the complaint. The committee is really more coming to look at our policies and procedures in terms of sexual misconduct and see if there are ways in which we can improve our processes.”

The timeline for the committee’s work is uncertain, Levin added, because of the near end of the spring term. Committee members — such as its chair, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and former Yale Corporation Fellow Margaret H. Marshall LAW ’76 — will be on campus soon to interview as many students as possible before the semester is over, he said, so it is unclear whether another round of conversations will be needed in the fall.

A variety of younger and older alumni are represented within the committee, Levin said. Yale officials sought members who are familiar with the set of issues to be addressed in the Title IX investigation. Prominent alumni including former Solicitor General of the United States Seth Waxman LAW ’77, Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86, the vice president for campus life and dean of students at University of Chicago and Elizabeth Smiley ’02, director at Barbary Coast Consulting and a former Yale College Council President; they will all sit on the committee.

In his email, Levin said he will review the Committee’s recommendations with the Yale Corporation after their report is completed early next fall, after which time 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. These meals will be “informal opportunities,” Levin said, for students to talk about Yale’s sexual climate and sexual misconduct policies with administrators such as Yale College Dean Mary Miller and University Secretary Linda Lorimer. 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 with the OCR on Mar. 15, in which they claimed that the University failed to provide equal educational access to women. Yale officials still do not have many details regarding 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 in the Friday email.

Recently, the University changed its undergraduate regulations to reflect clarified Title IX guidelines from the OCR. Yale College’s Executive Committee adopted a lower minimum standard of evidence necessary to find a person in violation of sexual misconduct regulations, and will grant sexual misconduct victims the right to request an appeal before the committee.

On April 7, Provost Peter Salovey announced a new, integrated University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct to “streamline” the sexual grievance processes. All but one of the University’s existing grievance boards are expected to dissolve.

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