As sexual climates at universities have come under national scrutiny, the Yale College Council has shifted its attention to the issue.
In an attempt to reform campus sexual misconduct policy, the Yale College Council has formed a sexual health task force to research current conventions and propose policy changes.
The task force will speak with University administrators and students to assess current policies, YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 said. The YCC will then use this research to write a sexual misconduct report, which will advise the administration on what current policies should be revised and how resources can be reallocated to better meet the needs of sexual assault victims. YCC representative and task force member Sarika Pandrangi ’17 said the report will be published by the end of the semester.
“[The task force will] help the administration facilitate creating a positive sexual climate on campus,” Herbert said.
The task force’s efforts will be coupled with YCC’s branch of the “It’s On Us” campaign — a nationwide initiative launched by the White House to combat sexual violence, Padrangi said. According to the campaign website, “It’s On Us” invites students to outline their pledges and visions to create a safer campus. It is also intended to be a grassroots movement to foster dialogue about sexual violence at colleges across the country.
The difference between the two initiatives, Pandrangi said, is that the task force is geared towards reforming University policy, while the “It’s On Us” campaign targets student behavior and attitudes. She also said the creation of the task force is part of the YCC “It’s On Us” campaign pledge.
In implementing the platform prescribed by the national “It’s On Us” initiative, the YCC has worked closely with the Community and Consent Educators to ensure that the vision of the national campaign aligns with the CCEs’ approach to combating sexual violence, said Josh Feng ’17, a CCE. A similar collaboration between the YCC and CCEs could be helpful in shaping the task force, Feng said, to ensure transparency and cohesion across efforts.
YCC initiatives can also be the key to integrating top-down, administrative policy change with bottom-up cultural change, Feng said.
“I think they have a lot of control over certain events that happen on campus that could really change the campus environment, like dances or Spring Fling,” he said. “They have the direct ability to change those things.”
But Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale College President Isabella D’Agosto ’16 said that though she admires the YCC’s attempt to reform the sexual climate at Yale, she thinks they are ignoring one key component of the fight: empowering Yale women.
“If YCC really wants to build an environment, it needs to focus on female empowerment,” D’Agosto said. “Focus first on the unique challenges women face at Yale.”
Lindsay Falkenberg ’15, who is involved with the task force through Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale, said one University policy the task force wants to reform is the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases. If a Yale student wants to bring forward a sexual assault complaint, the event must have taken place within the last two years, Falkenberg said. Such a limitation, she said, can be a serious problem for students who take a long time to process assault experiences.
Both Pandrangi and Falkanberg said they looked to the September 2013 YCC report on mental health as a model for the task force’s upcoming research on sexual health. Falkenberg said she plans to meet with the creators of the mental health report because the task force hopes to bring the same quality of research to the sexual health task force report. In particular, Falkabnerg added that the mental health report was particularly inspiring because of its incorporation of many student perspectives.
Annemarie McDaniel ’16, public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, said the Center encourages the task force to seek out diverse viewpoints to determine what issues it can address most effectively.
Everybody has a role to play in making the campus safer and healthier, McDaniel said in an email to the News. The task force, she said, should feel free to reach out student groups, administrators, survivors and others who are passionate about these issues.
The YCC released its four-part “It’s On Us” campaign pledge on Sept. 28.