Updated: 9:34 p.m. In an e-mail sent to Yale students and parents tonight, Yale College Dean Mary Miller provided an update about recent developments involving the federal investigation into accusations of a hostile sexual environment on campus. Miller said the administration did not have any more details about the specifics of the investigation.
Miller’s message alluded to the national media attention and “sometimes sensational headlines” that the case has received in the days after a group of 16 students and alumni filed a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint alleged that by inadequately responding to private and public instances of sexual misconduct, the University has failed to provide equal educational access to male and female students.
“Indeed, some of you have written to me in confusion; others have written to me with expressions of outrage against the University; some of you have offered support; and still others have written to me with deeply personal stories of their own experiences,” Miller wrote. She told the News Wednesday night that she hopes more students will come forward to her with testimonies if they have experienced or witnessed any episodes of sexual misconduct.
Miller added that a shortcoming of the current policy on sexual grievance procedures is that Yale College, the Graduate School and each of the professional schools have their own separate procedures when they deal with sexual harassment cases. If sexual misconduct occurs between a member of two different schools, the proper way to proceed is not always clear, she said.
A single University-wide committee will unite these different bodies, she said, including the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board; these plans were in place before the complaint was filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, she added.
“We do not have an obvious place to deal with transgressions by members of one school with another, and now we will,” she said.
Read the full text of her message below.
Dear Yale College Students:
Last Friday, I wrote to you regarding a complaint that had been levied against Yale with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The University has received formal notice from OCR about its intent to investigate that complaint. For now, we do not have any further details about the timing, process, or scope of the investigation. Nor do we have a copy of the actual complaint, for which we were required to submit a request to OCR under the Freedom of Information Act. Nevertheless, I want to provide you with an update, and I commit to you that I will continue to update you as this process goes forward.
Many of you have followed the development of this situation not only in the YDN but also in mainstream media and the blogosphere. Problems at Yale can make for sometimes sensational headlines, but we know that problems at Yale are no different from problems faced at many other institutions around the country. There is a great deal of information circulating, and it is sometimes difficult to discern the facts. Indeed, some of you have written to me in confusion; others have written to me with expressions of outrage against the University; some of you have offered support; and still others have written to me with deeply personal stories of their own experiences.
To all of you, I can say that I am saddened and troubled by the allegations of the complaint. I can also say without equivocation that Yale does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind. Nevertheless, we are always working to improve our policies and practices. One important example is the establishment of a single University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, to be chaired by Professor Michael Della Rocca, which will streamline and strengthen the process by which students and faculty may report and address instances of sexual misconduct. In this same spirit, we are welcoming the OCR’s investigation as an opportunity to learn more and do better.
I would also like to remind you that there are many options available to you at Yale if you or someone close to you is a victim of harassment, misconduct or assault. If you believe a crime has been committed, you should contact the Yale Police Department. The Yale Police have the same powers as any other municipal police force. Their investigators are well prepared to handle complaints of sexual assault on college campuses. You can contact the YPD directly, or work with a SHARE advocate who can accompany you through the process. SHARE can also provide emotional support and detailed information about the full range of legal and disciplinary options. More information about those options, along with contact information for Valarie Stanley, Yale’s Title IX Coordinator, is available on the Yale College website under the Campus Life tab. Whatever actions you decide to take, we urge you to get support. There are many places to turn—the deans and masters, the cultural house leaders, the frocos and PLs, Walden, and so on. You do not have to handle this alone.
Finally, if you feel your voice is not being heard, you can always contact me directly. It is my personal goal to ensure that the Yale campus is a secure and safe place for all.
Dean of Yale College
Sterling Professor of History of Art