Administrators have approved a proposal that will allow Sex Week 2012 to take place on campus despite a November recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate to ban the biennial event.
After the committee, which was appointed by University President Richard Levin last April, asserted that Sex Week had strayed from its original mission to promote sexual health, Levin announced that he would give Sex Week organizers the chance to present a proposal that “might warrant continuation” of the event on campus. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in a Wednesday email that although there are “some aspects of [the proposal] that do not seem to underpin our own educational mission,” she has permitted Sex Week organizers to reserve rooms on campus for the activities, which will take place from Feb. 4-14.
“It’s an ambitious proposal, with attention to consent in the present and historical and social contexts overall,” Miller said. “On balance, the proposal received our support.”
Miller did not respond to requests about which elements of the proposal were not completely satisfactory.
Connie Cho ’13, one of the organizers for Sex Week, said in a Wednesday email that organizers received the “green light” from the Dean’s Office for all of the proposed activities and discussion topics on Dec. 20. Though Cho said last month that Sex Week directors have worked to make the event relevant to all students, she added that the organizers would not shy away from controversial issues such as pornography. Still, organizers have said that this year’s event will place a special emphasis on sexual health and female sexuality.
The proposal, which was submitted to administrators on Dec. 2, also requested funding from the Dean’s Office for certain events, but Miller said her office has not yet decided whether to provide financial support. In previous years, Sex Week directors have relied on corporate sponsors, but this year’s organizers have agreed to find alternative sources of funding in response to concerns raised by the Advisory Committee.
Organizers have been coordinating with student groups to co-sponsor events in an effort to garner interest in Sex Week activities and contribute to the event’s “ideal operating budget” of $20,000. Though organizers have applied for funding through the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee and Yale fellowships, they have also asked student leaders to solicit donations from alumni of their groups, according to the email organizers sent to partner organizations.
Niko Efstathiou ’14, a member of the Yale International Relations Association who has been working with Sex Week to co-sponsor some activities, said he is excited that the Yale International Relations Association will have the chance to offer a “global perspective” on sex and sexuality through a panel discussion on sexual culture in foreign countries.
Twelve of 16 students interviewed said they supported the administration’s decision to allow Sex Week to remain on campus, and a majority of students interviewed said they would consider attending at least one of the activities.
“I really like the fact that [Sex Week] takes away the taboo of talking openly and honestly about sex,” Zach Belway ’13 said, adding that he attended Sex Week events as a freshman. “There’s so much variety to it that people can go to whatever events suit them, not just the porn star ones.”
But Isabel Marin ’12, one of the co-founders of Undergraduates for a Better Yale College (UBYC), a registered student group that circulated a petition last semester urging administrators to ban Sex Week, said although Sex Week organizers tried to tone down the “shock aspect” of their event, she still thinks the proposal focuses too much on pornography and casual sex.
“I don’t think the underlying message [of Sex Week] has changed all that much even though the superficial advertising of the event has changed,” she said. “I was still surprised that after all the complaints, especially about their emphasis on pornography, that that was still one of the major pillars of things they wanted to explore and emphasize in Sex Week.”
Marin said that UBYC will hold a “Love Week” during Sex Week for students “who want to explore and learn about an alternative way” to engage in romantic life at Yale.
Sex Week leaders have recruited Ann Olivarius ’77 LAW ’86 SOM ’86, a London-based attorney, to present the keynote speech, according to a press release from the Sexual Literacy Coalition at Yale. Olivarius was a plaintiff in the 1980 Alexander v. Yale trial in which a group of students sued the University for its alleged failure to provide a centralized grievance process for sexual harassment cases.
Olivarius will discuss the importance of sexual education and discourse in preventing sexual violence, according to the statement.
In past years, Sex Week has been known as “Sex Week at Yale,” but this year’s event will not include the “Yale” name as a result of the Advisory Committee’s report.