Sexual misconduct report faces criticism

Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct have come under renewed fire from students and alumni since administrators released the University’s fourth semiannual report a month ago documenting 61 new cases of sexual assault and harassment.

The findings, which detail complaints brought to University officials between Jan. 1 and June 30, include the largest number of cases since the University issued its first report in 2011. Title IX coordinators handled 30 complaints, while the Yale Police Department dealt with 22 and the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct oversaw nine.

Four cases involving undergraduate allegations of nonconsensual sex that first appeared in earlier reports were updated to include the most recent disciplinary action taken by the University. All four cases were filed as formal complaints with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, involving a full investigation and an external fact-finder. In each instance, the UWC found sufficient evidence that the perpetrator engaged in nonconsensual sexual activity with the complainant.

One of the four perpetrators was given a two-semester suspension and placed on probation for the remainder of his time at the University. A second was also placed on probation but was not suspended, and the final two were issued written reprimands, with one prohibited from contacting the victim.

Spangler said in an email to the News that she would not comment on individual cases to protect the privacy of those involved. The report cannot reflect the full circumstances of each case, she said, and it employs the term “nonconsensual sex” rather than “rape” or more explicit language to allow the University to impose consequences for behaviors that may not meet a criminal standard. UWC Chair and philosophy professor Michael Della Rocca declined to comment.

Members of the Yale community have criticized administrators for taking insufficient disciplinary action against perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Fifteen current and former students founded a group called Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale following the report’s release that advocates for changes in University policies and resources relating to sexual misconduct. SASVY published an open letter with over 350 signatures to Yale administrators on Aug. 12, suggesting expulsion as the preferred punishment for sexual violence perpetrators.

“By allowing offending students to remain at Yale, the administration deprives survivors of justice and puts other students at risk of victimization,” the letter states. “Lenient disciplinary action also sends a clear message to the student body trivializing sexual violence, encouraging future violations.”

An Aug. 19 open letter from over 200 alumni also criticized aspects of the report, such as the minor consequences given in some of the sexual assault cases and the use of the ambiguous term “nonconsensual sex,” which the alumni allege “appears to draw a distinction between ‘real’ rape and its ‘lesser’ counterparts.”

Emma Goldberg ’16, a former staff reporter for the News, posted a petition on Change.org on Aug. 2 calling for stronger administrative action, such as suspension and expulsion, in response to sexual misconduct. The petition had collected 700 signatures as of Thursday night. Another Change.org petition started by Samuel Ward-Packard ’14 on Aug. 4 that has over 1,400 signatures demands that administrators punish all instances of rape and “so-called ‘nonconsensual sex’” with expulsion.

In an Aug. 5 open letter to the Yale community, University President Peter Salovey responded to the outcry by reiterating Yale’s intolerance for sexual violence and promising to publish more informative documents on sexual misconduct by Sept. 1, such as a list describing scenarios of assault and potential penalties.

In an Aug. 14 response to the SASVY letter, Salovey promised a meeting between SASVY members and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler to hear student input and said he would try to meet with the students personally as well, according to SASVY’s website.

Eight new cases in the report involved allegations of sexual assault, which includes unwanted sexual contact or touching and rape. Thirty-three cases pertained to sexual harassment, such as inappropriate comments, threatening and unwanted sexual advances.
In addition to the 61 new complaints, the report also includes 18 updates to earlier cases.

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