At teach-in, a focus on sexual violence policy

The long-running battle against sexual violence at Yale continued Saturday with a student-led teach-in on legal rights, University policy and empowerment.

Approximately 30 students attended the three-hour teach-in held in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, which sought to bring the campus community together in solidarity against sexual violence. Organized by Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale (SASVY), it centered around a discussion of Title IX, the law banning discrimination in educational programs. It also included a workshop on discussing and formulating an effective sexual harassment policy on campus and a visual art project with the intention of raising awareness of sexual harassment at Yale.

The teach-in began with a discussion led by Alexandra Brodsky ’12 LAW ’16 — who was part of a group that filed a Title IX complaint against the University in 2011 — about students’ rights under Title IX, the gaps left in the federal law and what universities need to do to better prevent sexual violence on campus.

“Schools have really been able to bank on students’ ignorance of their rights for a very long time,” Brodsky said, adding that when she was an undergraduate she “had no idea that the school was required to do anything” about complaints of sexual harassment.

Brodsky added that while laws can be a limited but effective tool in combating sexual violence, university policies still play a major role.

The teach-in comes seven months after SASVY formed last August with the intention of combating sexual violence, sexual assault and rape at Yale through institutional and policy reform.

The group’s most visible effort thus far was an open letter to University President Peter Salovey asking for policy changes that include the use of expulsion for those found guilty of multiple counts of sexual violence and the requirement of mandatory disciplinary hearings for students reported for sexual violence more than once.

Following the address on Saturday, representatives from Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), a New York-based organization that fights sexual violence through student-led campaigns, hosted a workshop on reforming sexual harassment policy. Approximately 15 students attended the workshop.

“I’m hoping that people feel inspired to make change and say no to what’s been happening,” said Adaku Utah, a SAFER facilitator.

The workshop included discussions on the dynamics of sexual assault on college campuses and necessary factors to consider in developing an effective sexual harassment policy.

SASVY members also encouraged students to contribute to the Clothesline Project, an art project involving T-shirts with messages about sexual violence. The completed project will be hung on Cross Campus in order to raise awareness about sexual assault.

“One of the things I’m really impressed by with the group is the discussion of ownership of campus culture,” said Ella Wood ’15, who is not involved in SASVY.

Amy Myers, a staff member at Yale’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center, said she thinks events such as Saturday’s are important opportunities for members of the community to communicate about issues of sexual violence.

Organizer Winnie Wang ’15 said SASVY plans to host similar events in the future. Ideally, she said, the group will host teach-ins once a semester, though she added that SASVY’s ability to host will depend upon donations that fund bringing speakers to campus.

The 2011 Title IX complaint was filed by Brodsky and 15 other students.

Comments