Yale College Dean Mary Miller announced significant changes to the Undergraduate Regulations Tuesday, including revised policies for addressing sexual misconduct and hazing.
The updated regulations clarify the definition of sexual misconduct and consent, as well as the role of the new University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) in handling complaints, Miller said. They also outline more stringent policies to prevent hazing in student organizations, drawing on recommendations made by multiple committees over the course of the past academic year.
“These regulations are the standards by which we expect all students to conduct themselves, both on campus and off campus, as part of our shared responsibility to create a safe college environment that reflects our shared values of integrity, civility and respect,” Miller wrote in an email to undergraduates announcing the new policies.
The changes follow recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and the Committee on Hazing and Initiations last semester. Both committees formed last fall after pledges of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity shouted offensive chants on Old Campus in October, such as “No means yes, yes means anal.” Miller announced in May that DKE had violated Undergraduate Regulations and would face a five-year suspension from operating on campus.
Miller said the new hazing rules are stricter than those in Connecticut law and emphasized that groups, as well as individuals, can be punished for hazing infractions.
“The state spells out, and we underscore, that willing participation in hazing is not exculpatory,” Miller said in an email to the News. “Even if students ‘agree’ to submit to hazing, they have not in fact agreed under Connecticut statute and Yale College [regulations].”
The new regulations also help the University administration to keep a closer watch over undergraduate organizations.
Each year, at least three officers from each organization must attend training in hazing and sexual misconduct prevention, which will be led by the new team of student Communication and Consent Educators, which began this fall. All student organizations — including unregistered ones — are expected to provide the Yale College Dean’s Office with contact information for their officers and certify that they will abide by the Undergraduate Regulations, though higher education law experts told the News in May that it may be difficult to enforce regulations on unregistered student organizations.
In addition, the regulations include a clearer definition of sexual consent and misconduct, stating that sexually-harassing speech counts as sexual misconduct.
Melanie Boyd ’90, special advisor to the dean of Yale College on gender issues, said the University’s definition of consent has often been misunderstood. She explained that consent does not have to be verbal, and while “incapacited” people cannot grant consent, drunkeness does not always qualify as incapacitation.
For when cases of sexual misconduct do occur, the regulations outline the policies of the UWC, which went into operation July 1 to handle cases of sexual misconduct across the University’s 13 schools. In the past, undergraduate students could bring informal complaints — which are resolved without punishment — to the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, while formal complaints were handled by the Yale College Executive Committee. But the 29-member UWC will deal with both types of complaints, UWC chair and philosophy professor Michael Della Rocca said, and students as well as faculty and staff members may file complaints. The UWC has already received inquiries and complaints this year, Della Rocca said.
“Although it’s too soon to detect a pattern, I would say that the number of complaints is higher than in previous years,” he said, adding that he sees this as an indication that the UWC’s role is taken seriously.
Juan Caballero ’12, a freshman counselor in Jonathan Edwards College, said he was not surprised by the new regulations, as administrators have been talking about groups perpetrating acts of sexual misconduct for the past few months.
The University is currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after 16 students and alumni filed a complaint alleging that Yale fosters a hostile sexual environment that violates federal Title IX regulations.