August 25th, 2012 | University

Briefly: While you were out

The news didn’t stop this summer, and neither did the News. In case you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a digest of the top stories of the past few months.

Yale-NUS tensions flare

Unease over civil liberties at Yale-NUS College surged this summer when a July 16 article in the Wall Street Journal cited Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis as saying protests and political parties would not be permitted on the school’s campus in Singapore.

Lewis said the article paraphrased him incorrectly and told the News in July that “all forms of political expression consistent with Singaporean law” will be allowed at Yale-NUS. But when pressed on how Yale-NUS will handle political expression that goes beyond what is permitted by Singaporean law, Lewis and University President Richard Levin were unwilling or unable to give clear answers.

In a July 19 interview, Levin said he did not know whether Yale-NUS will be obligated to report any unregistered political parties or protests, or whether the college will allow Singaporean police on campus to break up protests or meetings of political parties.

“I’d rather just have no comment on these things,” he said.

Protests in Singapore are only allowed in Hong Lim Park’s Speakers’ Corner. While students at NUS may participate in established national parties, Singaporean law forbids them from forming political parties or campus chapters of national parties, akin to the Yale College Republicans or the Yale College Democrats.

Lewis said in July that, to his knowledge, the college will not be obligated to report political parties or protests to Singaporean authorities. He said at the time that he will ultimately be responsible for developing Yale-NUS’s policies on student parties and protest, but declined to give details. Lewis said in July that the policies will become public by the time the college opens in fall 2013. Reached Thursday, he and Levin declined to comment on the policies until September.

The Journal’s article prompted a wave of criticism. Human Rights Watch accused Yale of “betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest,” and Chee Soon Juan, chairman of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, wrote to Lewis to express his “extreme dismay.”

“They say, ‘You have total freedom to express yourself’ — and there’s a but in there — ‘but everything within the confines of what the Singapore government says,’ ” Chee told the News. “You can do anything within those confines, and therein lies the problem, because very soon you’ll find that circle getting smaller and smaller.”

The Yale College faculty passed a resolution in April expressing concern over the historical “lack of respect for civil and political rights” in Singapore.

-Tapley Stephenson

PKU exchange ends

Months after reaffirming its partnership with Peking University, Yale announced in July it was cancelling its program that sent undergraduates to live and study at the prestigious Chinese school.

University President Richard Levin called the program a “great success” when Yale renewed the partnership in December, but said in July that it consistently failed to achieve “critical mass,” with only four students signed up for fall 2012. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the program was not financially viable with such low enrollment.

“Programs like this one depend on developing a successful constituency each and every year in order to make them work,” Miller said in a July 26 email. “A program where our staff, including Yale faculty members, who move to Beijing and take up residence for a semester or a year, exceeds the number of students, is not sustainable.”

Yale-PKU was the only program that allowed students from other universities to live and study with students at PKU. Administrators expected the program to attract 15 students per semester when it was launched in 2006, but it averaged around 10, Levin said.

Yale and PKU considered increasing enrollment by adding other American schools to the partnership, such as Brown University and Wellesley College, but Levin said they were unable to secure commitments from peer institutions.

A July 24 email from a faculty member on the program’s advisory committee described the Yale-PKU language program as “notoriously weak,” causing many students to struggle with re-entering the Chinese language program at Yale.

“I enjoyed my time [at PKU], but had difficulty coming back into the language classes at Yale because the PKU program had me studying out of a different book and taking language classes four days a week compared to Yale’s five,” Lucy Brady ’12 said.

Yale and PKU students interviewed in July said they were surprised to hear the program had been shut down. The PKU students also said they were not informed of the program’s closure.

“I think the change may interfere with Yale’s reputation here,” said Shiyao Liu, a PKU student who lived with Yale students in spring 2011. “Making promises and then, after several months, breaking them isn’t a very good action that a prestigious or top-tier American university should do.”

PKU students can still take summer courses at Yale through a program established in 2005.

-Tapley Stephenson

Title IX inquiry concludes

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights completed its investigation into Yale’s sexual culture in June following a series of changes made by administrators to the University’s sexual misconduct policies.

The 15-month investigation ended after Yale and OCR reached a “voluntary resolution agreement,” announced by OCR on June 15. Under the agreement, the University will continue to uphold its newly implemented grievance mechanisms, such as the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, and inform the community of available resources devoted to issues of sexual misconduct. Yale will not face any disciplinary action but will be required to report to OCR until May 31, 2014, according to Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.

Though the investigation did not find Yale in noncompliance with Title IX, it did conclude that the University had under-reported incidents of sexual misconduct “for a very long time” and kept inadequate and confusing records of sexual harassment and violence, Ali said.

The investigation into Yale’s sexual climate began March 2011, just weeks after 16 students and alumni filed a complaint with OCR alleging that Yale had allowed a hostile sexual environment to persist on campus.

Hannah Zeavin ’12 and Alexandra Brodsky ’12, two of the Title IX complainants, pointed out in June that while OCR did not find Yale in noncompliance, it also did not find Yale in compliance with Title IX regulations. Zeavin added that a June 15 letter from OCR to Yale administrators regarding the investigation demonstrated that Yale was “not necessarily within the bounds of Title IX law” before the investigation began.

Still, complainants said in a June 15 statement that they were grateful for OCR’s investigation and plan to form a standing committee to oversee the University’s progress and serve as a “conduit of information” between Yale and OCR.

-Gavan Gideon and Caroline Tan

McMahon, Murphy to face off

Former wrestling magnate Linda McMahon and current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy will face each other this November in the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.

McMahon bested challenger Chris Shays by a 73 to 27 percent margin in the GOP primary, and Murphy led former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 by a moderately smaller margin of 68 to 32 percent for the Democratic nomination. The two have turned their attention to the November general election, in which polls show Murphy enjoying a substantial lead.

“Chris Murphy won tonight, and he’ll win in November because people know he’s not like a lot of politicians in Washington,” Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in a statement after results were released. “He spends his time working to advance the interests of the middle class, especially when it comes to job creation.”

McMahon, who lost to Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 during the 2010 Senate election despite spending over $50 million of her own money, spent an additional $12 million in her primary campaign. She is expected to spend even more during the general election, a fact Murphy acknowledged in his victory speech.

McMahon, meanwhile, characterized Murphy as a picture of Washington’s dysfunction in her victory speech after the primary.

“He’s been there six years, and what do we have to show for it?” McMahon said. “More spending, more debt and higher unemployment.”

But McMahon faces an uphill battle, as a July poll by Public Policy Polling gave Murphy a 50 to 42 percent lead over McMahon, substantially wider than a Quinnipiac poll conducted in May that gave Murphy only a three-point lead.

The general election will take place on Nov. 6.

-Nick Defiesta

Sexual misconduct report released

Forty-nine cases of sexual harassment, assault or other misconduct were brought to Yale officials between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to the University’s second semi-annual report compiling sexual misconduct complaints.

As part of the University’s efforts to improve transparency, administrators began releasing semiannual reports last year that compile all sexual misconduct cases. The second such report contains the first instance of expulsion imposed by the newly created the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

According to the report, the complaint that led to expulsion was filed on behalf of a female Yale College student and alleged that a male undergraduate with whom she had been in a relationship “committed acts of intimate partner violence.” The UWC, which was established last summer to streamline Yale’s sexual grievance procedures, found sufficient evidence to support the allegations and decided to expel the male student given his “prior history of similar conduct.”

The punishment was the first instance in which any student had been expelled from Yale College since at least 1998, according to annual reports of the Executive Committee archived online.

Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, who was appointed University Title IX Coordinator last November during the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ investigation into Yale’s sexual culture, said administrators will continue working to “clarify and communicate” the University’s sexual misconduct policies and see whether anything needs to be changed.

“The goal is to be fair and consistent given the complexities of the case,” Spangler said in July about evaluating cases. “It’s not a formulaic process.”

According to the University’s first semi-annual report, which was released in February, 52 cases of sexual misconduct were brought to officials between July 1 and Dec. 31 of 2011.

-Gavan Gideon and Caroline Tan

Path cleared for Downtown Crossing

After more than five years of planning and review, the $135 million Downtown Crossing project, New Haven’s largest urban development effort in generations, received final legislative approval this month to move forward with construction.

Downtown Crossing, the City’s plan to convert the eastern section of Route 34 from a limited access highway into a pair of pedestrian-scale city streets, was first revealed in 2007. The roadwork will reclaim reclaim 11 acres of land, officials said, and a 2.4 acre parcel of that space will be home to a new 10-story, 426,000-square-foot medical office tower.

The project began a lengthy legislative review process last April, when the real estate developer, Carter Winstanley, formally submitted a 199-page proposal to the Board of Aldermen. After months of review and deliberation, the full Board voted unanimously to approve the project on Aug. 6, paving the way for Downtown Crossing to move forward into execution.

“For half a century, the highway divided the city and served as a reminder of the homes and businesses that were lost,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said at a press conference on Aug. 7, referring to the destruction of the Oak Street neighborhood to make way for an extension of Route 34 under former Mayor Richard Lee in the 1950s. “No more. This January, work will finally begin to remove the highway and restore the street grid, employing thousands of people and propelling our local economy for decades to come.”

The first phase of Downtown Crossing will focus on the project’s road construction work. Exits 2 and 3 of Route 34 will be closed, and the old Route 34 Connector at the North and South Frontage roads will be converted into an urban boulevard that officials hope will reconnect the Hill neighborhood with downtown. College Street will then be reconstructed at grade level.

In the project’s second phase, the city will transfer the 2.4-acre land parcel Winstanley Enterprises, and Winstanley will develop the site into a medical sciences office tower at 100 College St. with ground level retail space.

Gov. Dannel Malloy announced in June that multinational drug company Alexion Pharmaceuticals will relocate its headquarters to 100 College St. — becoming the central tenant of the new development. Alexion plans to move 350 of its current employees to New Haven and make an additional 200 to 300 new hires at the facility by 2017.

-Ben Prawdzik