Second campus climate assessment begins

Though the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights closed its investigation into Yale’s sexual climate this past summer, the University is continuing to evaluate its resources for addressing and reporting sexual misconduct.

Yale’s 15 Title IX Coordinators are seeking input from the student body and holding focus groups with randomly selected participants from across the University this November in order to compile a second campus sexual climate survey. The previous assessment, conducted by the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, released its report in September 2011, and concluded that the University needed to communicate sexual misconduct matters more effectively with the student body and conduct regular climate assessments.

The current assessment will focus on measuring the success of programs implemented in the past year, assessing general campus attitudes toward Yale’s sexual climate and defining the University’s areas for improvement.

“The broad and ongoing engagement of the Yale community is essential in order for us to prevent and address sexual misconduct most effectively and to work together to strengthen our culture of respect and responsibility,” University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said in an email to the News Sunday.

After 16 students and alumni filed a Title IX complaint against the University in March 2011, Yale responded by creating the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate and increasing the presence of Title IX coordinators on campus.

As part of the second campus climate assessment, members of the Yale Community can provide feedback by email, anonymously online or in person, and Spangler’s office will arrange focus groups to bring together students, faculty and administrators in Yale College and the professional schools. Spangler said the campus climate reassessment will evaluate several distinct areas: how the Yale Community perceives and understands the campus sexual climate and University resources for addressing sexual misconduct, whether students and faculty feel that they can affect Yale’s sexual climate and what additional actions the University might take to prevent and address sexual misconduct.

In his official response to the findings of the original campus climate assessment, University President Richard Levin committed the University to conducting regular appraisals of campus sexual climate. Title IX Coordinators — who are spread across Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools — have met monthly since last spring and have been planning a second climate assessment for several months, said Joan Channick DRA ’89, School of Drama Title IX Coordinator.

“The population of the University turns over frequently so it’s always useful to get an understanding of what people’s understandings and attitudes are at all levels,” Channick said. “You can’t assume, with the high turnover of University populations, that whatever attitudinal assessment done [before] is still accurate.”

The original Advisory Committee assessment was conducted with 12 focus groups in each of the residential colleges and two at graduate schools, said Pamela Schirmeister ’80 GRD ’88, Title IX Coordinator for Yale College and the Graduate School. Because coordinators have had more time to prepare, the current survey will be more comprehensive, Schirmeister said.

She added that the participants for the new focus groups will be randomly selected.

“[In Yale College], we are running a focus group for sophomore women, one for sophomore men, one for women’s groups, for sports captains … ” Schirmeister said. “There will be less of a likelihood of a homogenous response because of random selection.”

Schirmeister said the Title IX coordinators will either facilitate the focus group meetings or take notes and listen to participants’ comments. She added that pilot focus groups have been conducted with the Title IX Coordinators, the Graduate Student Assembly and the student life deans for the graduate and professional schools. Schirmeister will personally be involved in 19 focus groups, she said.

The Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, which compiled the first campus climate report, is not involved in the reassessment.

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