The University is forming a Title IX Student Advisory Board that will advise the University’s Title IX Steering Committee on ways to address sexual misconduct issues.
The committee will be composed of undergraduate representatives as well as graduate students, according to Yale College Council President Danny Avraham ’15. Candidates will be nominated through the YCC as well as other channels, such as the Women’s Center. The size of the committee and selection criteria still need to be determined.
Applications are currently open for sophomores, juniors and seniors. According to Tramonte, they would not be open to freshmen since first-years have not experienced Yale’s sexual climate yet. Tramonte said administrators approached the YCC with the idea in the middle of last week, and that the group was excited to be able to take part in the nomination process.
Applications to the advisory board are due September 20.
By now, the words seem to be engraved in the collective memory of the Yale student body. In October 2010, Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges chanted this line, over and over again, on Old Campus. A swath of Yalies and administrators reacted in swift fashion — angry op-eds, school-wide emails and public forums flooded the campus. The feminist campus publication Broad Recognition considered the DKE incident “the last straw” in a series of public sexual misconduct episodes.
For students such as Alexandra Brodsky ’12 LAW ’16, enough was enough.
“The administration just sort of said, ‘Let’s have a conversation!’” she said in a interview, regarding the dissatisfying administrative response to the DKE chants. In the spring of 2011, she, along with 15 students and alumni, filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
The complainants argued that Yale was fostering a hostile sexual environment; the administration’s ineffective response to similar previous incidents and muddled grievance procedures, they said, contributed to the situation. Events such as these had fueled Brodsky’s activism since joining Yale as a freshman — and the Title IX incident, she said, could be seen as a turning point.
“Too often the story about the Title IX complaint is that it was all about DKE,” Brodsky said. “That’s absolutely not true.”
And now, after a difficult relationship with her alma mater, she has returned this fall as a student at Yale Law School. After experiencing sexual harassment firsthand at Yale, she has increasingly felt the obligation to address feminist issues — on this campus and beyond. Despite her issues with the University, Brodsky’s brand of feminism has been inextricably shaped by her time at Yale.
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When asked about her background in social justice work, Brodsky chuckled.
“I wish I had a story to tell you,” she said. “Something like ‘I grew up in an incredibly radical family.’”
Brodsky went on to list some of her early exposure to matters of social justice — “nothing super significant,” she recalled. For a time she was involved in her synagogue, organizing around the Darfur genocide. On another occasion, her aunt took her to a pro-choice rally in Washington, D.C.
Yet what Brodsky may dismiss as insignificant amounted to an early guiding outlook.
“The little bit of exposure — not a ton — that I got as a teenager struck me that there are things you could do to make the world better and therefore you should do them. In my mind it made sense,” she said. “In high school I understood the work I wanted to do as ‘public service,’ which I think is related to but distinct from my current activism … It was a model of charity more than social justice, generosity rather than empowerment.”
She continued, “I had the privilege of understanding oppression as something that happened elsewhere and to other people, and concluded that if I could help them, I should.”
Her logical motivation for early charity work would become complicated as she became “a real person in the real world” — a Yale student. That is, instead of reading about social injustice, it became personal and salient.
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Before Title IX “became a personally urgent matter,” Brodsky was more frustrated with the constant instances of sexual discrimination she experienced from her peers. She has written in a previous op-ed for the News about being rejected from study groups because of her sex.
But during the Title IX saga, Brodsky never revealed she was a survivor. In her freshman year, one of her peers attempted to rape her. During her entire undergraduate career, that experience was not something she felt safe disclosing on a campus that she shared with her attacker.
In this respect, the Title IX complaint was much more personal to Brodsky than some might have expected.
“You don’t have to be a survivor to recognize that there is a problem,” she said. “But there is a sense of urgency when you’ve had this experience.”
The DKE chants only fueled her anger further. As she put it, students have hoped for many years to work with the administration to improve how Yale addresses sexual misconduct. Seeing that internal change was not going to happen, Brodsky and the other complainants looked into legal options.
“[We were] unified by the belief that the University’s administration was inadequately responding to instances of sexual violence and harassment on campus,” said Joseph Breen ’12, one of the 16 complainants.
Under the spotlight of a federal investigation, a series of administrative decisions took place soon after. Even before Breen and Brodsky graduated from Yale, the University centralized all grievance processes through the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct and created the Communication and Consent Educators program, among other services. It seemed that the longstanding battle against sexual misconduct was finally beginning to pick up steam.
“After the complaint, campus began to treat sexual violence more seriously,” Breen said. “The University realized it had to do a better job of making the campus safe, and so the administration began to make changes.”
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Since graduating from Yale, Brodsky has kept herself busy.
She co-directs Know Your IX, or KYIX, a nationwide campaign that seeks to educate students about their Title IX rights. This summer, she worked at Planned Parenthood on a fellowship and at the Harvard Law School in their gender violence program. She is currently involved with Ed Act Now, a coalition of students and graduates working against sexual violence on colleges and universities. In July, the group rallied outside of the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. to gather signatures for their petition demanding that the federal government hold institutions legally accountable for their obligations under Title IX.
Now Brodsky is back on campus, starting anew in the same place that compelled her feminist activism. (She is no stranger to the Yale Law School: she was fully introduced to the inner workings of Title IX in a law school class, “Sexual Rights,” in the fall of 2010.)
“I have no doubt wherever [Brodsky] finds herself, she’s going to be working from inside the institution that she wants to make more fair, more just,” said Crystal Feimster, assistant professor of American Studies & African American Studies and Brodsky’s mentor in her senior year.
At the law school, Brodsky plans to study prison alternatives and feminist legal theory. “I think that there’s a lot I can learn from the law school about how to challenge institutions like Yale,” she said.
Current activists acknowledge positive additions to campus in the wake of the Title IX complaint. Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale (SASVY) is a student group founded in response to the Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct released this summer. The group, which published an open letter to Yale with Brodsky’s help, offers educational materials to help victims report sexual crimes. Since SASVY’s debut, administrators have issued a response to the open letter and agreed to meet with the student organizers to further discuss their concerns.
“We aren’t starting anything new,” said Emma Goldberg ’16, one of the founding members of SASVY. “There are so many students who really paved a path for activism.”
Brodsky said she is letting the “most affected constituency” lead the on-the-ground efforts to combat sexual misconduct on campus, and she is hoping to be a source of institutional memory for future activism.
In other words, she said, “I’m hoping to be helpful.”
A group of 37 women at Occidental College in California filed a complaint today with the Department of Education on grounds of Title IX violations, becoming part of a growing number of universities, including Yale, which have come under investigation for providing inadequate sexual misconduct resources.
The complaint, similar to the one filed by 16 Yale students and alumni in March 2011, alleges that the school fosters a hostile work environment by not offering effective prevention and response programs for sexual assault. Students allege that the Los Angeles-based school did not educate them about consent, discouraged them from reporting assault and did not remove perpetrators from the university environment.
In 2012, after a 15-month investigation at Yale, the Department of Education reached a voluntary resolution agreement with the University, where Yale agreed to uphold newly-implemented reporting and grievance procedures for sexual misconduct cases. Over the course of its investigation, the Office for Civil Rights found that Yale underreported incidents of sexual harassment and violence and did not effectively inform students of sexual misconduct resources.
More than 15 percent of Princeton’s female undergraduates reported being victims of nonconsensual vaginal penetration, according to results from an unpublished 2008 survey described in a Monday article from The Daily Princetonian.
The survey — which was based on data provided by 1,595 Princeton graduate and undergraduate students from the classes of 2008 to 2011 — measured the frequency respondents said they faced various sex-related scenarios.
According to The Princetonian, 70 percent of respondents were female. More than 28 percent of respondents reported being touched in a sexual manner or having their clothes removed without consent, while 12 percent reported being forced to receive or perform oral sex.
The results suggest that the reported rates of sexual misconduct at Princeton are significantly lower than actual rates of occurrence.
Amada Sandoval, director of the Princeton Women’s Center, told the The Daily Princetonian the results were “not anything unexpected.” According to The Princetonian, one Princeton administrator said the university did not want to attract unwanted attention by publicizing data on sexual activity that was in line with the national average for rape, which is one in five for women.
The report comes amid rising scrutiny into the sexual climate in college campuses across the country. In November 2011, a report from Yale’s Advisory Committee on Campus Climate concluded that students had misconceptions and a lack of information about the sexual misconduct resources available on campus. The report suggested Yale improve communication regarding sex-related resources, expand the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center, and increase sexual misconduct prevention and intervention training on campus.
Results from Yale’s second campus sexual climate assessment survey, which are being conducted by Yale’s Title IX coordinators and began in November 2012, have not yet been released.
Members of the Yale community seeking specifics of the Title IX complaint filed against the University may face a long — or possibly interminable — wait.
Last week, a group of 16 student and alumni complainants announced that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether Yale has allowed a hostile sexual environment to persist on campus. But as of Monday, Yale’s Office of the Vice President and General Counsel has yet to receive many details about the complaint from the OCR, and according to legal experts interviewed, several legal obstacles could prevent Yale administrators from acquiring all available information.
When asked what Yale knew about the complaint Monday, University Vice President and General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said the OCR had shared little with the University.
“Actually, the department gave us very little information — only that they intend to begin an investigation of a complaint filed by a group of current and former students on Title IX compliance,” she said, adding that receiving information regarding the complainants’ motives was not necessarily relevant to her office.
Robinson said the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel will request to obtain a copy of the complaint under the Freedom of Information Act — a federal law which allows access to government documents. If the request is approved, she added, the government will provide Yale with a copy of the complaint that does not contain names and personal identifiers.
It is unclear whether Yale’s attempts to procure the complaint will even be successful, said Kristen Galles, a Virginia-based Title IX lawyer who has been litigating Title IX cases since 1993.
Based on precedent, Galles said, FOIA requests for Title IX complaints are usually denied to protect the privacy of any victims of sexual misconduct who may act as cosignatories. Even if Yale receives a copy of the report, she added, the University cannot disclose it to the public without the complainants’ permission.
“Retaliation is very rampant in any school you go to,” Galles said of the privacy protections. “It must have been pretty bad [at Yale] if it got to the OCR.”
Complainant Alexandra Brodsky ’12 said the contents of the Title IX complaint — which alleges that Yale violated the federal law requiring educational institutions to provide equal access to men and women — are not relevant to administrators. Divulging details of testimonials of sexual misconduct listed in the complaint would constitute a violation of confidentiality, Brodsky added.
All told, she said, the purpose of the complaint was to provide evidence to the OCR that an investigation was needed.
“The complaint will not be the basis of the changes that will happen,” she said. “It’s us pointing at a fire and saying, ‘Bring your fire truck.’”
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said Monday that she cannot respond to issues raised by the cosignatories until she reviews the “full text” of the Title IX complaint. Even then, Miller said, the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel may be the only administrative department fit to comment. University President Richard Levin could not be reached for comment Monday night, and declined to comment on the complaint Sunday since he had not been on campus over the weekend.
Both Miller and Michael Gregory, an expert on education law at Harvard Law School, said that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) — which prohibits a school from divulging information from a student’s record without the consent of the student — could prevent the public from seeing the complaint in full.
In contrast to the wait the University may face in procuring a copy of the Title IX complaint, the 16 complainants waited only two weeks between filing with the federal government on March 15 and learning of the OCR’s decision to investigate March 31.
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said there is “no right answer” when asking how the OCR evaluates complaints, adding that the Yale complainants’ two-week waiting period was not abnormally short.
Later this week, Robinson said, administrators expect to receive formal notification of the investigation from the OCR.
Schools that are found in violation of Title IX risk losing their federal funding if they decline to comply with the law. Yale received $510.4 million in federal funding for research and training in 2009-’10, according to the University’s financial report for that fiscal year.