August 18th, 2013 | University

Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale protests University sexual misconduct policies

After the release of the fourth semi-annual report of sexual misconduct complaints at the end of July, a group of 15 students have formed Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale to advocate for changes in University policies and resources dealing with sexual misconduct.

An Aug. 12 open letter to the administration, which has been signed by over 300 Yale affiliates as of Saturday evening, calls for expulsion as the preferred punishment for sexual violence perpetrators. In the most recent report, discipline for cases of sexual misconduct ranged from written reprimands to a two-semester suspension in cases of “nonconsensual sex” brought as formal complaints to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

“By allowing offending students to remain at Yale, the administration deprives survivors of justice and puts other students at risk of victimization,” the letter states. “Lenient disciplinary action also sends a clear message to the student body trivializing sexual violence, encouraging future violations.”

SASVY also recommends the referral of survivors to a local organization such as a rape crisis center or a victim’s rights group because, according to the letter, Yale’s sexual misconduct disciplinary process is “opaque and unfriendly to survivors,” and survivors would benefit from the guidance of an outside party independent of the administration.

According to the letter, the University should include input from student survivors when crafting sexual misconduct resources and policies to incorporate insight administrators lack. The letter also recommends that Yale initiate disciplinary hearings against students who were reported for sexual violence more than once regardless of whether the reports were filed formally.

In an Aug. 14 addendum to the open letter from SASVY, the group emphasized the importance of not pressuring victims who may not wish to pursue expulsion for their perpetrators or participate in other recommended policy changes.

Emma Goldberg ’16, one of the original members of SASVY and a former staff reporter for the News, said the addendum was published because the letter had been misinterpreted by a number of readers and had hurt some survivors.

“We learned that people had interpreted our second demand as an attack on [the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center], and we wanted to make sure the Yale community knows that we fully support and appreciate resources like SHARE.,” Goldberg said.

University President Peter Salovey responded to the open letter Aug. 14 and promised a meeting between SASVY members and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler to hear student input. Salovey also said he would try to meet with the students personally.