A group of students who allege that many incidents of harassment, racial profiling and sexual abuse at Yale go unreported or unaddressed by the administration sent a mass e-mail this week soliciting “testimonials” from students who have experienced such episodes.
The leaders of the group, which remains unnamed, plan to compile grievances and publicize them through more e-mails or public displays. The group hopes to spread awareness about what they see as a lack of administrative concern about incidents of student harassment, said Sunny Kim ’06, the only member of the group who has identified herself.
Yale President Richard Levin said the administration responds to reports of harassment and other violations.
“Anything that’s reported is addressed,” Levin said. “We take this very seriously.”
The group states in the e-mail that it wishes to publicize incidents of rape, racial profiling, police brutality and verbal harassment of Yale students “who have expressed political opinions that differed from the status quo.”
Kim, the group’s public representative, said she thinks Yale has failed to address student complaints because of the administration’s faulty “structures of accountability.”
“We hope to establish another system in which people are not afraid to come forward and affirm their experiences,” she said.
The group believes the ability to submit anonymous complaints will provide an “open space” and combat feelings of isolation among students who have been harassed, Kim said. They hope to raise awareness of the prevalence of such incidents at Yale, while holding accountable both perpetrators and the University, the e-mail said.
If a student submits an anonymous complaint, the group will not publicize the names of any of those involved in the incident, Kim said.
Kim said the group thinks it is important to create a system that addresses issues of discrimination as well as harassment.
“Though rape, racial profiling and harassment are different, they’re connected, because criminals aren’t held accountable and because the administration fails to take proper action,” Kim said.
Levin said the fact that the administration does not publicize specific incidents does not mean violations go unpunished or unreported.
“To publicize is to convert what could be a learning experience in life to a permanent scar — why should we permanently tarnish the reputation of a 19- or 29-year-old? We’re a humane institution,” Levin said. “People are reprimanded [and] expelled.”
Levin also said occurrences of racial profiling by Yale Police have been reported and the University has investigated them.
Andrew Cox ’07, who received the e-mail, said he appreciated the group’s efforts because he thinks the issues addressed go largely unacknowledged at Yale.
“This — definitely happens on Yale’s campus, and a lot of people don’t realize it,” Cox, who is a member of the groups Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention and Men Against Rape and Sexual violence, said. “People like to think this is Yale, a nice Ivy League institution, and it doesn’t happen here. People have invested years of their lives to get in here and they don’t want to think this stuff goes on.”
Cox said he agrees with the group’s decision to create an anonymous forum for victims of harassment and discrimination.
“It’s a unique way to give people who aren’t confident enough to share their testimonials a degree of publicness and a degree of anonymity,” Cox said. “It’ll help some people who are ready to come forward.”
But other recipients of the e-mail objected to the system’s emphasis on anonymity. David Stanley ’05 said he thinks the system could create a “witch hunt.”
“[It] could lead to accusations right and left,” he said.
Timothy Condon ’05 said he thinks the fact that the group will “decide justice for themselves” will prove detrimental to their efforts.
“By taking justice into their own hands, they are supporting the same hate crimes and lynch-mob attitudes they are purportedly against,” he said.
Adda Birnir ’07 said she thinks the issue is especially prominent in light of the publicity surrounding an incident of sexual harassment by English professor Harold Bloom that writer Naomi Wolf ’84 recently reported in an article in New York magazine.
“I’m glad to see that someone is looking at these issues on campus,” she said. “Students and the administration haven’t dealt with it. It’s good to talk about these things.”
The group hopes to receive all testimonies by Mar. 27, the one-year anniversary of an incident of harassment involving “political dissenter” Katherine Lo ’05, the e-mail said. Kim said they plan to publicize the testimonials by the end of the semester.