In an effort to clarify confusion regarding the University’s disciplinary procedures on sexual misconduct, administrators released three hypothetical cases involving potential complaints of nonconsensual sex that would result in expulsion in a campus-wide email Monday night.
The scenarios are a response to criticism surrounding Yale’s fourth semi-annual report of sexual misconduct complaints, which detailed all cases of sexual harassment and assault brought to University officials in the first half of the year. Students and alumni have raised concerns that Yale’s punishments for sexual assault are not severe enough and that language about sexual misconduct used in the report is ambiguous.
Of four cases updated in the most recent sexual misconduct report after the UWC found evidence to confirm undergraduate allegations or reports of nonconsensual sex, one resulted in a two-semester suspension and none led to expulsion.
“We’re thinking these scenarios are really good to educate the community,” said Michael Della Rocca, chair of the UWC. “The UWC has not seen the full range of cases that you see depicted [in the scenarios]. If we saw cases like that, we would expel.”
Out of the eight hypothetical scenarios released Monday, three cases that resulted in expulsion involved forced sex. One case involving a student who said “not so fast; I’m not sure” midway through a previously consensual sexual encounter resulted in a punishment that would “likely range from multi-semester suspension to expulsion.”
One scenario that involved ambiguous consent resulted in a punishment falling between probation and suspension while another case of ambiguous consent resulted in a “reprimand.” Two cases depicted examples of consensual sex.
Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said some critics of the report “jumped to conclusions” about the circumstances surrounding the cases of sexual misconduct included in the report.
“People were equating our term ‘nonconsensual sex,’ which includes a range of behaviors, with [rape],” she said.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 said nonconsensual sex by Yale’s definition is broader than rape and includes any instance of sex — oral, vaginal or anal — that does not include positive, unambiguous, voluntary agreement at each point during the sexual encounter.
In the report, the four cases involving allegations of nonconsensual sex ended in confirmed instances of nonconsensual sexual conduct, nonconsensual acts during otherwise consensual sexual activity and one case with no details of the complaint or finding specified.
Although the three hypothetical scenarios involving rape all ended in expulsion, Boyd said issuing a statement that Yale’s preferred punishment for rape is expulsion would have been a “shallow and problematic” solution to the issue.
Some complainants may not prefer expulsion in the case of rape, and creating a hierarchy between rape and forms of sexual violation that are not rape would have been too simple, she said.
Although the UWC does not follow predetermined standards of punishment for various cases, Spangler, Della Rocca and Boyd said they unanimously agreed upon sanctions for each case.
Administrators said the UWC’s disciplinary standards were not re-evaluated when the scenarios were created and have remained consistent since the University introduced its most recent definition of consent in 2011.
“In each case where a violation of policy is found, the most important factor determining the disciplinary action taken is the nature of the behavior in question,” Spangler said. “The UWC panel is also made aware of relevant precedents in other cases and any prior disciplinary record of the respondent.”
The complainants are also asked to indicate their desired outcome, Spangler said. Administrators said the recently released scenarios will inform the training for members of the UWC.
Emma Goldberg ’16, a founding member of Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale — a group created in August that has lobbied administrators to reform Yale’s sexual misconduct policies — said the scenarios focused too heavily on cases that ended in expulsion because zero cases in the last report ended in expulsion.
“The range of scenarios deals almost entirely here with cases that end in expulsion and only one ends in a written reprimand and all the [reported cases] we took issue with ended with reprimand,” Goldberg said.
SASVY member Hannah Slater ’13 SPH ’14 said administrators have not gone far enough in providing clarification on several topics, including the process of determining disciplinary consequences.
SASVY is scheduled to meet with administrators next week.