Yale employee alleges Title IX noncompliance, unfair dismissal

Susan Burhans, a former security education coordinator for the Yale Police Department, filed a lawsuit against the University Friday afternoon on the grounds that her efforts to promote compliance with Title IX and related laws led to her unfair dismissal.

In her former position, Burhans allegedly uncovered several University policies that promoted a hostile sexual climate on campus and warranted overhauls, according to today’s complaint. Though Burhans repeatedly approached Yale officials in the past decade with concerns regarding these policies, the suit claims that administrators ignored her suggestions.

“As we developed evidence in the case, it became clear that there was more here than a routine case of employee discrimination based on gender,” John Williams, Burhans’ New Haven-based attorney, told the News. “After consulting with Title IX experts… we realized that this is a very strong case against Yale’s well-documented pattern of violating Title IX.”

The complaint states that when Burhans notified Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith, then deputy secretary of the University, that Yale was underreporting cases of sexual misconduct, administrators stripped Burhans of her job responsibilities, which initially included the development of campus programs to ensure a safe environment in compliance with Title IX and related laws. Burhans’ position was eventually terminated in March 2010. She was later rehired as a project manager with no responsibilities related to Title IX, though that position has also been terminated, effective this November.

Burhans is suing the University for at least $10 million, according to the complaint.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights closed a Title IX investigation into Yale’s sexual climate last June, following a 15-month look into the University’s sexual misconduct reporting mechanisms and prevention and education resources. While the OCR did not find Yale in noncompliance with Title IX, its report said that the University has severely underreported cases of sexual assault and harassment.

Burhans could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

Comments

  • concerned

    $10 million should just be the starting point for lawsuits against Yale covering these matters.

  • iggis

    The Deans, the President, and the Fellows should be personally liable too. Each and everyone of them.

  • SAK7

    The DOE studied this situation re Title IX for fifteen months… and closed the file. Does anyone seriously believes Yale is a hotbed of seething hostility aimed at keeping females in the kitchen to justify these comments above? Wonder whatever happened to Bill Clinton’s Civility Center?

    • penny_lane

      I imagine similar institutions have similar problems, they just don’t get as much attention. I think it’s actually a credit to Yale that so many women have been able to speak up.

      Nevertheless, my answer to your rhetorical question is yes.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Please note that Attorney John Williams has a long history of championing the forlorn.

    A bit of New Haven history is in order here:

    In 1984 he responded affirmatively to my request that he represent “Helen” (aka Carlotta Locklear) the New Haven prostitute with AIDS whose story on 60 Minutes was the first time Americans were made aware that AIDS could be transmitted heterosexually. Prior to that it was dismissed as a “gay disease.” http://aidsatyale.blogspot.com/

    At the time the HIV virus had not been identified and it was not known how the disease was spread. Even doctors were so superstitious, that when “Helen” was arrested and confined to a hospital, they left the doors unlocked so she could “escape”.

    Thus, the decision of Attorney Williams to represent “helen” (without fee, I might add) was not only an act of compassion, but an act of courage.

    I felt, as the one responsible for “bringing public attention” to “Helen” that I had a moral responsibility not to leave her alone and unaided. Mr. Williams agreed to offer her the safe harbor of legal representation.

    I will forever be grateful to him.

    Paul D. Keane

    M. Div. ’80

    M.A., M.Ed.

  • ms2676

    As usual, it’s about PK.

  • The Anti-Yale

    No. It’s about John Williams.

  • RexMottram08

    What on earth is a “security education coordinator”?

  • River_Tam

    > The complaint states that when Burhans notified Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith, then deputy secretary of the University, that Yale was underreporting cases of sexual misconduct, administrators stripped Burhans of her job responsibilities, which initially included the development of campus programs to ensure a safe environment in compliance with Title IX and related laws. Burhans’ position was eventually terminated in March 2010. She was later rehired as a project manager with no responsibilities related to Title IX, though that position has also been terminated, effective this November.

    I can believe that Yale doesn’t do everything it can with regards to sexual misconduct, but I don’t really buy the ‘unfair dismissal’ part of the complaint based on this description.

  • dbrett

    River_Tam,

    We don’t know the whole story yet, but I also think you are being very naive. Wasn’t public safety taken away from Lorimer and Highsmith not even a month after this person is saying she was terminated?

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/apr/12/former-nhpd-chief-to-lead-ypd/