The University received 78 complaints of sexual misconduct — an all-time high since Yale began publishing records of its complaints in 2011 — between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, according to Yale’s latest semi-annual report on the issue.
University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler released the Semi-Annual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct in a University-wide email Monday evening. The number of complaints received is an increase from the 56 complaints published in the first half of 2015. It is also eight greater than the 70 complaints recorded during the second half of 2013, the next highest number of reports on record. Additionally, 63 of the 78 complaints in the new report were made to Title IX coordinators, an unprecedented high for this specific branch of the University’s sexual misconduct reporting mechanisms. Of the five categories of sexual misconduct complaints — sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, stalking and other — sexual harassment was the most common complaint, with 38 reports. The report also noted that the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct — the only body with the power to pursue formal resolution of a sexual misconduct case — found sufficient evidence to expel a respondent, in an update on a Yale College case from last year.
In her introduction to the report, Spangler highlighted the importance of Yale’s participation in the Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, the results of which were released last September. The AAU results are a clear call to action, Spangler noted, since the survey results indicated the high prevalence of sexual misconduct on Yale’s campus while highlighting the fact that not every case is reported.
“The current semi-annual report is the first to be published following the 2015 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct,” Spangler wrote in her email to the Yale community. “[The AAU] findings compel us to fortify and expand our prevention efforts and take additional actions to make sure that individuals are aware of and comfortable with ways to report incidents of sexual misconduct.”
Vicki Beizer ’18, public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, said while it is impossible to know what effect the AAU findings had on community members’ decisions to report, the latest semi-annual numbers reaffirm the need to continue building a safe sexual climate on campus.
“In an ideal world, the number of instances of sexual misconduct is zero,” she said. “This number of reports, and the contents of the report, implicates every single member of the Yale community. We all have work to do in our own circles to foster a healthier sexual environment.”
The new semi-annual report also clarifies the function of the Title IX coordinators, who were notified of more complaints during the second half of 2015 than ever before. At Yale, there are several venues that can receive complaints of sexual misconduct: the Title IX coordinators, the UWC and the Yale Police Department. The Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center can also hear complaints, but it keeps all of its information confidential and has no obligation to report to the other University entities; as a result, the semi-annual report does not include complaints brought to SHARE’s attention.
UWC Chair and ecology and evolutionary biology professor David Post declined to comment Monday.
Title IX coordinators can help complainants resolve alleged incidents of misconduct informally, but cannot hold formal disciplinary hearings. For example, a coordinator can refer a complainant to other available resources, including the UWC, if the complainant wishes to pursue further action. Coordinators can also work with respondents’ supervisors to impose sanctions on respondents and provide accommodations for complainants, such as no-contact orders.
But the UWC also has an informal resolution process, and Spangler told the News that based on community input, administrators felt it was important to further clarify the role of Title IX coordinators. Previous interviews with students have shown that they may not fully comprehend the scope of a Title IX coordinator’s authority. Spangler said she hopes that the online description will help clarify the capacity of this specific venue.
“[Title IX] coordinators seek to address any immediate concerns, connect complainants with appropriate resources, ensure that they are fully aware of the options available for further action and help facilitate those actions,” the online description reads. “Except in rare cases involving an acute threat to community safety, coordinators defer to complainants’ wishes.”
Spangler told the News that although only the UWC can take formal disciplinary action, especially for cases in which the respondent is a student, Title IX coordinators are able to take other actions. For example, one case described in the latest report showed that after a staff member made inappropriate comments to an undergraduate complainant, a Title IX coordinator worked with a human resources representative to counsel the respondent on appropriate workplace conduct and imposed no-contact restrictions. The respondent received not only a written warning, but also a demotion.
Spangler also emphasized that Title IX coordinators play an important counseling role, and not all complainants who work with these coordinators end up pursuing a resolution of their complaints. Title IX coordinators can also receive complaints from a third party, such as freshman counselors and deans and masters of residential colleges, who have an obligation to report any information they hear. In each third-party case, a Title IX coordinator reaches out to the individual to offer support and discuss different options. A new section in the report lists third-party cases in which individuals decided not to engage with the Title IX coordinator or provide additional information.
The results of the AAU survey indicated that the prevalence of sexual misconduct is high on Yale’s campus, Spangler said, and there are many more cases than those reported to University entities.
“It is difficult to make direct correlations between the AAU survey results and the number and nature of complaints in this semi-annual report. However, we now have very powerful baseline evidence from the AAU survey, showing that many experiences of sexual misconduct on our campus are not reported to a University program,” Spangler said. “We are working hard to better understand these reasons, with the aim of making sure individuals feel comfortable reporting their experiences.”
The ultimate goal, Spangler said, is to prevent sexual misconduct on Yale’s campus. The University currently has a number of prevention programs, including bystander-intervention training, and will continue to develop new ones that can produce positive results. The key to successful prevention, she emphasized, is the full engagement of the Yale community.
Likewise, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, who supervises the Communication and Consent Educators program, said that in the wake of the AAU survey, she, her colleagues and the CCEs have had “countless conversations” about campus sexual misconduct. Those conversations, she added, provide the opening for people to consider reporting their experiences.
“Establishing high community expectations — and a willingness to intervene when people fall short of those expectations — is the best way to prevent sexual misconduct,” she said.
Beizer said sexual respect needs to be reinforced in many ways and at multiple times throughout the Yale experience, beginning with freshman orientation.
At the very least, Yale College Council President Joe English ’17 said, he hopes the new report raises awareness of existing resources to address misconduct.
“The new report emphasizes the importance of improving access to the resources Yale already has and ensuring they are as robust as possible,” he said. “We do have resources to help students deal with these issues and get justice, and I’m hoping that we can continue making them as accessible as possible.”
Yale is the only university that releases semi-annual reports of sexual misconduct complaints with descriptions of each case in addition to the basic statistics, Spangler said.
Clarification, Feb. 19: This article has been updated to clarify that Title IX coordinators do not have the power to undertake disciplinary actions but can work with respondents’ supervisors to make other adjustments and sanctions.