Yale’s second campus climate assessment, released almost a year after the Department of Education closed its investigation into the University’s compliance with Title IX, says students feel the administration has made progress in improving awareness of and resources for addressing sexual misconduct issues.
The report — emailed to the campus by University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler on Wednesday and based on feedback from more than 300 students, staff members, faculty and administrators — found that students think Yale has been more open in its efforts to foster a healthy sexual climate over the past couple of years. Almost all participants in the assessment were confident they could access the University’s sexual misconduct resources if necessary, with many students able to identify the Sexual Harassment Response and Education Center (SHARE) and at least one other key sexual misconduct response mechanism at Yale.
Spangler’s report follows an assessment conducted in 2011 by the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate — chaired by Margaret Marshall LAW ’76 — which was formed after 16 students and alumni filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that Yale had allowed a hostile sexual environment to persist.
OCR’s 15-month investigation into Yale’s sexual climate ended in June 2012 with no finding of Title IX compliance or noncompliance. But under a “voluntary resolution agreement” between the University and the office, Yale is required to conduct annual assessments of campus climate and report its progress to the OCR until May 2014.
In contrast to the Marshall report, which was designed to advise administrators on how to improve the University’s sexual climate, the 2012-’13 assessment aimed to engage University members in a broad discussion of campus sexual climate and examine how well the community understands existing sexual misconduct resources.
“The Yale of today is substantially different—and better—from the Yale of last year or two years ago,” the report states with regard to undergraduate perceptions of sexual climate. “Students appeared to be aware of the intensity of University efforts to address sexual misconduct.”
According to Spangler’s report, students believe that Yale has a comparatively better sexual environment than other institutions. In addition, the assessment stated that group of participants “with first- or second-hand” experience in using the University’s sexual misconduct response resources felt the process had “gone very well.”
Joan Channick DRA ’89, Title IX coordinator for the School of Drama, said the report indicates an improvement in campus sexual climate, and that Yale’s efforts to address campus sexual climate have had an impact.
Since 2011, Yale has expanded the SHARE center, revamped sexual misconduct educational programs for undergraduates and established the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which is intended to streamline the sexual misconduct complaint process.
But while the report concluded that the University has made improvements toward a better sexual environment, students involved in the assessment still recounted incidents of inappropriate comments and sexual assault. In addition, the report highlighted confusion among students about Yale’s different sexual misconduct reporting processes and the exact types of support offered by Title IX Coordinators and the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.
Graduate and professional students raised concerns in the assessment about sexual climate in relation to their professional environment, explaining that their reliance on faculty for their careers made raising complaints more difficult. These students also expressed dissatisfaction that certain disciplines continue to be shaped by gender bias, and some noted the scarcity of females in their departments.
Spangler said this most recent campus assessment fulfills the commitment University President Richard Levin made in his seven-page response to the 2011 Marshall report to seeking input regularly on Yale’s sexual misconduct prevention and response resources. According to Spangler, the assessment of a “broad awareness and common understanding of resources” among students represents the type of progress the Advisory Committee determined was necessary.
DOE spokesman Jim Bradshaw declined to provide details on how the University is updating the OCR on its progress in implementing the voluntary agreement, saying that he could not comment because it is an open case and the office’s monitoring of Yale is ongoing.
Alexandra Brodsky ’12 LAW ’16, one of the 16 Title IX complainants, said she thinks the second campus climate report is more effective than the 2011 Advisory Committee report in recognizing a distinction between “hook-up culture” and “rape culture,” and that consensual casual sex does not promote violence. Brodsky also noted that awareness of resources is distinct from actual use of those resources.
“Talking about student awareness is pretty safe — they were unlikely to come up with an embarrassing finding,” Brodsky said. “They weren’t really looking at how are we serving students who come forward and use those resources.”
Under its voluntary resolution agreement with the OCR, Yale was first required to report its progress on improving the University’s sexual climate by Sept. 15, 2013.