One month after the Yale Women’s Center presented administrators with a list of changes to University policy it wants enacted following January’s “Yale Sluts” incident, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey announced this week that the University has agreed to some of the demands but is still considering others.
Salovey will establish two committees — one to evaluate extant sexual-harassment-prevention policies and the other to examine Yale College’s policies regarding “off-campus, residential student organizations including fraternities” — and provide additional physical and personnel support to the Center, according to a March 2 e-mail to Center leaders. The University’s response does not address several requests Center board members made in a 26-page report they submitted to the Yale College Dean’s Office on Feb. 9, but Salovey said the steps he outlined “represent a serious effort by the Yale College Dean’s Office to work productively and collaboratively with you now and in the future to reduce sexism on our campus.”
The response made no mention of Zeta Psi. In February, the Center’s directors wasted little time in laying out their first request — that the fraternity pledges and brothers involved in the incident be called before the Executive Committee for disciplinary action. Since then, University administrators have declined to comment on whether they will summon the students involved.
Members of the Center’s board declined comment for this article.
The announcement of administrative changes comes seven weeks after the circulation around campus of a photo showing students associated with the Zeta Psi fraternity outside the Women’s Center holding a sign that reads “We Love Yale Sluts.” In their report, Center board members, who had threatened to file sexual-harassment suits against Zeta Psi and the University, set a deadline of March 7 for a “concrete response” from administrators.
The two committees, to be headed by Berkeley College Dean Kevin Hicks and Trumbull College Dean Jasmina Besirevic, will include a number of students, professors and University administrators. But in his e-mail to the Center, Salovey emphasized that the committees will have no formal policy-setting powers.
“Just to be clear, these committees can make policy recommendations but cannot adopt or implement policy,” he wrote. “The creation of new policy or alteration of existing policy may require the approval of other administrators on campus and, depending on the nature of the recommendation, the Yale College Faculty.”
Still, Salovey said Thursday that committee recommendations will receive “full consideration” from the man who commissioned the bodies — Salovey himself.
Student members of the committees declined comment, citing Yale College confidentiality agreements, and neither Besirevic nor Hicks could be reached for comment Thursday evening.
In addition to the committees, Salovey’s letter outlined plans to improve the atmosphere and functionality of the Center itself, which board members criticized in their original report.
“There are exposed pipes and stray wires dangling from the ceiling,” the Center’s report reads. “When toilets are flushed upstairs, the noise of swirling water is distinctly audible. [The Center] is located behind dumpsters, next to the campus convenience store.”
In response, the University has promised short-term fixes — painting and furnishing, as the Center’s board and Associate Dean and Dean of Administrative Affairs for Yale College John Meeske see fit — and long-term consideration of relocating the Center to more comfortable spaces around campus as current occupants such as Dwight Hall at Yale move elsewhere.
The letter also promised cash — enough to pay for 30 hours of paid staffer work at the Center each week.
Characteristically, Salovey’s e-mail did not make explicit whether the Zeta Psi students will be asked to appear before ExComm. It offers only this hint: Buried in a passage explaining that Assistant Dean of Yale College and ExComm Secretary Jill Cutler will act as a liaison to the Women’s Center alongside Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies Maria Trumpler.
“In order to avoid any conflict of interest, Dean Cutler will assume this role only after any Executive Committee cases stemming from the incident in front of the Women’s Center have been resolved,” Salovey wrote.