University President Peter Salovey addressed concerns regarding administrators’ handling of sexual misconduct cases following last week’s release of the fourth semi-annual report of such complaints in a Monday evening email to the Yale Community.

Salovey’s message outlined ways in which the University will work to clarify the report with additional information online and explained how complaints of sexual misconduct are difficult to neatly define, even with the use of external fact-finders and the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

Salovey also acknowledged the negative responses the report has garnered from the media and members of the Yale community. Articles on the issue have appeared on outlets such as the Huffington Post and JezebelTwo petitions on change.org begun by undergraduates calling for Yale administrators to suspend or expel students responsible for sexual misconduct have also collected hundreds of signatures.

“In recent days, people inside and outside the university have expressed concern and anger about the report,” Salovey wrote. “We all should be concerned and angered that sexual violence or sexual misconduct takes place at Yale or elsewhere.”

Much of the backlash has focused on the disciplinary action taken in response to cases of “nonconsensual sex” listed in the report. In four updates to such complaints, one of the perpetrators received a two-semester suspension, another was placed on probation and the remaining two were issued written reprimands.

But Salovey said in his message that the UWC considers a wide range of punishments, “beginning with expulsion or termination,” for each complaint. He also said the University reports every complaint of rape, assault or criminal misconduct to the Yale Police Department.  Salovey could not immediately be reached for comment.

In addition, Salovey said it is “evident” that the report on sexual misconduct must better explain what is meant by the term “nonconsensual sex.” He said the University will soon release a number of example scenarios to help clarify what nonconsensual circumstances look like. The University will post those scenarios, along with responses to frequently asked questions about Yale’s handling of sexual misconduct, on the Sexual Misconduct Response website.

Read the full text of Salovey’s message below:

To the Yale Community:

Last week, Yale released the Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct Brought Forward from January 1, 2013 through June 30, 2013. This is the fourth such semi-annual report Yale has made public; as a university and as a community we have committed to open reporting in order to raise awareness, encourage frank discussion, and promote a campus culture of respect and responsibility in which there is no place for sexual misconduct.

In recent days, people inside and outside the university have expressed concern and anger about the report. We all should be concerned and angered that sexual violence or sexual misconduct takes place at Yale or elsewhere. I want to underscore my personal commitment to Yale University being a place that is free from these repugnant behaviors.

Much of the recent concern focuses on the perception that punishments have been too mild in the disposition of some of the complaints described in the report. Although every complaint is different, and there are many nuances, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC), Yale’s unified hearing body for informal and formal complaints of sexual misconduct, considers a full range of penalties, beginning with expulsion or termination. As the reports show, the university has suspended or expelled students, terminated staff, and relieved faculty members of their positions as teachers and supervisors.

Yale’s standard of consent is extremely rigorous (Yale requires clear and unambiguous consent at every stage of a sexual encounter), but even with the involvement of an independent fact-finder, it is often difficult to ascertain the circumstances of a complaint beyond what the complainant and the respondent report. As I know from my prior experience as dean of Yale College, in some cases, all parties may agree on what words were spoken but disagree on whether those words constituted clear consent. In many cases, the complainant and respondent come to altogether different understandings of what transpired. In too many cases, excessive alcohol consumption blurs memory.

I also want to assure all of you that Yale reports any complaint it receives of rape, assault, or criminal misconduct to the Yale Police Department, which has full law enforcement and arrest powers. Yale advises any person who reports a sexual assault about the resources and assistance the police can provide; and we assist and support individuals who choose to pursue criminal complaints. At the same time, Yale is absolutely committed to protecting the privacy of the individuals who bring complaints forward, and we take into account their preferences regarding the pursuit and resolution of their complaints.

Despite all of the hard work of the last few years to address the problem of sexual misconduct at Yale, it is clear there is more to do. The discussion generated by this latest report is valuable and important. It is evident that Yale’s report must be more descriptive about what is meant by “nonconsensual sex,” and more information should be made available to advise the community about the basis for penalties. I have requested that a series of scenarios be developed to illustrate circumstances that might be considered nonconsensual and their bearing on potential penalties. I have asked Professor Michael Della Rocca, chair of the UWC; Deputy Provost and University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler; Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews; and Yale College Associate Dean Melanie Boyd to work together on this project, and to post these illustrations on the Sexual Misconduct Response website by the beginning of September. In addition, in the next week we will develop responses to frequently asked questions about how Yale addresses sexual misconduct on campus and post these FAQs on both the Title IX website and the Sexual Misconduct Response website.

Sexual misconduct is reprehensible human behavior. But my academic training tells me that human behaviors can be modified, and that institutional cultures can change for the better. And my professional experience at Yale has shown me that this university is committed to being a community that is respectful and safe for all. I welcome your suggestions in this regard, and I thank each one of you for your individual and collective efforts to achieve this goal. I want to publicly express my thanks and support to the dedicated members of the University-Wide Committee; the Title IX coordinators; the deans and student affairs officers; the Communication and Consent Educators, peer counselors, and Freshman Counselors; the SHARE staff; the Yale Police Department; and all of the students, faculty, and staff who work tirelessly to eradicate sexual misconduct on our campus.

Sincerely,

Peter

  • terryhughes

    An indefensible assumption coloring the backlash to the report is that “nonconsensual sex” as defined under Yale’s discipline policies somehow equates to “rape” under state law. It is hard to imagine why any thoughtful person would make such an error, but it seems well represented in the media. Yale is fully capable of adopting a definition of “consent” far more demanding than Connecticut employs in its definition of “rape” or sexual assault. If Yale chooses to adopt a very high standard, why would anyone think a violator of the standard should be subject to any particular punishment? For example, if Yale decides that both parties to a sexual act must execute signed, witnessed instruments of consent duly notarized under state law or the sex act will be considered “nonconsensual,” would any sane person think that people who agree to have sex only orally and in private should be expelled or considered to have engaged in rape? And, if not, why don’t these backlashers bother to make sure they actually know what standards apply? Is the term “non consensual” supposed to be self defining? Who thinks like that? Isn’t one of the loudest, worst offenders in this regard now a student at Yale Law School, having just graduated from the College? How did that happen?

    And, by the way, why is so much of this “backlash” so repulsively sexist? Generally, ALL sex is presumed abusive (even to be rape) unless there is “consent” meeting some articulated standard. That goes for BOTH men and women. In other words, if a man and a woman both get so drunk that they are BOTH incapable of “consent” meeting the appropriate standard (the usual situation in which this mess arises) and have sex anyway, then they are BOTH guilty of abusive sex and perhaps rape … at least in any system not hopeless polluted with sexist presumptions and distortions. Why is it so much of this “backlash” seems to miss all that? One gets the impression that many of these people think women cannot or do not sexually abuse the men with whom they have sex even when the men are incapable of “consent” due to alcohol or otherwise. Did these people stumble through some time warp to the 1950’s? Sheesh!

    • terryhughes

      President Salovey points out that “Yale’s standard of consent is extremely rigorous (Yale requires clear and unambiguous consent at every stage of a sexual encounter). But one should add that the consent must be given prior to the sexual act. In other words, a victim of sexual abuse cannot render the sex “consensual” after the fact. That is a general feature of sexual abuse regulation. For example, under state law a rapist can still be charged and convicted of rape notwithstanding the victim’s post-fact “consent.”

      That consent must be granted prior to the sexual act has some serious consequences an understanding of which seems to elude many of the more vocal participants in the “backlash” noted in this article. For example, consider the not-uncommon situation in which a man consumes enough alcohol to deprive him of the ability to “consent” (either under state law or under Yale’s more demanding standard, under which the ability to consent presumably expires with less alcohol than it does under state standards) to sex but proposes exactly that to a woman who has (for the sake of this example) consumed no alcohol at all and if fully capable of consent. If they have sex, she is – and he is not – guilty of sexual abuse, even rape. That he wakes up the next morning happy as a clam that he “got lucky” the night before does not mean his mate has not sexually abused him, although it reduces the likelihood that the police will hear about the incident, exactly because he cannot “consent” after the fact and was incapable of “consent” prior to the fact. Similarly, female teachers who have sex with their under age male students, even allowing themselves to become pregnant (something which appears to be reported with increasing frequency) cannot later obtain the “consent” of their partner (even marry him) after he has passed the age of consent, and thereby avoid criminal charges. Such women are routinely prosecuted and imprisoned where there crime is detected, notwithstanding their partner’s objections.

      While I am not aware of any study of the matter, it seems possible – perhaps likely – that (1) the number of occasions on which Yale men who are incapable of “consent” through inebriation or otherwise having sex with consenting Yale women far exceeds (2) the number of occasions on which a consenting Yale man has sex with a non-consenting Yale woman (whether the absence of consent arises by way of her inebriation or from force on the part of the man or otherwise). In other words, it seems possible – perhaps even likely – that female sexual abuse of men at Yale is far more common but far less reported than male sexual abuse of women. If that is correct (and, again, I am not claiming it is, only that it seems possible or likely), then Yale’s failure to detect and punish such by its women would appear to be actionable, and further effort to punish its men would appear to exacerbate a sexual environment already disproportionately hostile to them. It is easy to see a class action on the part of such men at some point in the future.

  • es09

    Thank you to President Salovey for this unequivocal statement about the “repugnance” of sexual misconduct on campus. The strength of this statement is of an order that I have not heard from a Yale president in the eight years I have been associated with the University. It is appropriate to the topic. Moreover, President Salovey’s letter is–gasp!–responsive to the concerns of a large majority of the Yale community. Let’s hope this signals the beginning of a new chapter of administrative sensitivity. Keep advocating for the students under your stewardship, President Salovey.

    • terryhughes

      I like the President’s letter, too.

      But can you explain here how you came to know that and how the letter is “responsive to the concerns of a large majority of the Yale community?” How did you determine what the concerns of a large majority of the Yale community are? I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but did you make this determination by having conversations with friends and acquaintances? Did you attempt a scientific poll? If so, how? If not, how did you ascertain the community members’ “concerns,” especially during summer vacation – a period during which I have always thought (or at least been concerned) that many of these people don’t know their OWN concerns?

      For that matter, how did you determine who is in “the Yale community?” Does “the Yale community” include Yale’s alumni? Or its recent alumni? Or alumni who remain active in supporting the University? How about alumni who do not support the University proper but do support some organization related to Yale, such as a secret society? Does “Yale community” include non-alumni parents of current students? Or parents of recent graduates? Or New Haven residents who live in apartments next door to Yale buildings but otherwise have no connection with the University? How about non-alumni faculty, their family members or ex-faculty members who do or do not continue financial support of the University (such as an ex-YLS professor who has been appointed to a federal judgeship)? Does it matter if the ex-faculty member maintains some kind of nominal position with the University, such as a lectureship? Is US Second Circuit Judge, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law Guido Calabresi a member of the Yale community, for example? If so, how did you determine that the President’s letter is responsive to the concerns of this sitting federal judge?

      How do you think President Salovey was able to write a letter responsive to the concerns of a large majority of the Yale community when it seems as though one can’t get more than two members of that community in the same room for any significant length of time without their having an argument? Should he give a seminar on how he did it?

      Just asking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dorothy.brett.10 Dorothy Brett

    What about all the victims for the last 40 years who have suffered terribly by Yale railroading them into the internal “judicial” system at Yale? EXCOM? Responsible for more re-traumatization than you could imagine. The people responsible for that kangaroo court are head of the “new” University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) The female undergrads being told they can take “medical” leave while the perpetrators studied abroad FUNDED BY YALE. Disgusting.

    What about the original Title IX claimants in 1977 – or the new ones in 2011? Do they believe Yale has changed its culture?

    • Nancy Morris

      Ah, the rich aroma of carefully cultivated, wandering, fact-free, vaguely expressed 40 year old faux-feminist piss-and-vinegar outrage! There’s nothing like it. Civet scat is the the only thing that even comes close. There’s a fortune to be made in such crème de merde. Don’t ever let go. Yes, the world has been bad to you, or if not to you to those like you, or if not to those like you then to those you choose or favor or with whom you identify … so the world should pay up, and is not permitted to ask questions! Ah … nothing like it!

  • Dee

    Don’t have sex with someone who is unable for whatever reason to give consent. If one party was too drunk to recall what they did, then they were too drunk to give consent. When in doubt, don’t do it.

    I am not sure why this is to difficult, if the person did not give consent and later they say they were raped, and it is established that either they were too drunk to give consent, or they never actually agreed to the sex, then for me it is rape and should be treated as such.

    if it is determined that the sex was non-consensual and a punishment is deemed appropriate for the person that took advantage, then as far as I am concerned it should be turned over to the police for further investigation.

    A friend of mine ended up in one of these situations, the guy was suspended for a semester, it was later found out that he had done the same thing to a number of women. It was not an accident, this guy was a predator.

    • terryhughes

      Yes, consent is the key. It’s either there or it isn’t. Eagerness to experience sex is not consent, in men or in women.

      A friend of mine had a similar experience to yours. He repeatedly got obviously drunk at a series of his frat’s parties (I won’t mention the frat, but you can guess) and appetitively but very politely (even charmingly) propositioned a series of obviously non-inebriated women for sex. Each time the woman agreed. I’m guessing each agreed because he was a handsome, rich, smart, personable jock from a prominent family, but I don’t really know. Oddly enough, none of these women was ever charged with nonconsensual sexual assault, although each of them was clearly guilty of it under Yale’s standard and probably even under Connecticut law (although I’m not a Connecticut lawyer) because they all obviously knew he was drunk and incapable of consent. As I noted above, that a drunk man or woman may be sexually eager and appetitive is irrelevant to the question of whether he or she can consent. Further, a man’s or woman’s state of mind prior to getting drunk or meeting a potential sexual partner is similarly irrelevant to the question of whether that man or woman was capable of giving consent to that sexual partner. Can one even imagine anyone at Yale seriously arguing that a woman’s getting drunk at a party prior to meeting a man who exploits her sexually somehow itself constituted “consent” because she knew or even intended that result prior to depriving herself of the ability to consent? Someone advancing such an argument would be laughed out of the room once the stunned silence abated.

      Why is such sexual predation by Yale women not more of an issue? Why does the federal and state Departments of Education take no interest in the problem? Why are such women apparently never charged with sexual abuse? Can anyone recall a single example of such a woman being charged with sexual assault at Yale? Yet nearly everyone seems, personally, to know of many examples. When it happens at social gatherings, why do the other Yale students who see such couples retire for evident sexual activities not call the police? Are they stuck in some bizarre past in which women cannot be sexual abusers and the drunk, non-consenting guy is somehow “lucky?” It’s weird.

      Sexual predation by men is odious, and so is sexual predation by women. But the latter seems almost completely unreported and certainly unpunished. While I have read about Yale men who are claimed to have had sex with a non-consenting partner, I have never known one personally and it seems relatively rare, even accounting for an understandable reluctance of women victims to go to the authorities. But it also seems obvious that there is an even greater reluctance on the part of male victims of female sexual assault to go to the authorities.

      Frankly, I may be wrong, but it seems to me that a very small minority of Yale men may have ever had sex with a non-consenting (drunk) women, but a majority of Yale women may have had sex with a non-consenting (drunk) man. In other words, it seems to me that few Yale men are sexual predators, but a majority of Yale women may be exactly that. Is that progress? Have other Yale students had different experiences?

      • Dee

        Actually in the case of my friend she was raped, but it was a date rape situation. He befriended her, and when they were alone he raped her. She was not drunk, but it came down to a he said, she said situation. If your friend had felt violated, i.e. the woman had inserted something into him while he was incapacitated, or if they had had another man molest him while he was drunk my guess is that he would probably have filed charges. However, if he was so drunk as not to be able to give consent, and he felt violated after having sex, then yes he should press charges for rape.

        If you are not incapacitated and have sex with someone who is incapacitated, then you are playing Russian roulette with the law.

        I am sorry, I can see no situation where there is non-consensual sex and one party who was incapacitated at the time who did not want to have sex where it is OK for the sober person (or even the drunk person) to get away with it. Especially if this person has a history of getting people drunk and having sex with them (regardless of if they wanted to or not)

  • Lauren W.

    President Salovey: What is “nonconsensual sex”? It’s rape. It’s a criminal matter for the police to handle. Period. Even the continued use of this kind of terminology is offensive in the extreme. It’s helpful, however, because it offers clear insight into the unjust, antiquated attitude that continues to characterize Yale’s leaders.