As college campuses nationwide adapt their policies on sexual misconduct to new federal and state legislation, Yale is working to incorporate the new guidelines into an already established network of resources.
New laws coming from both Washington and Hartford mandate that universities around the country provide primary prevention and awareness programs for all staff and students. In early August, Yale responded by publishing a brochure, “Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct,” which includes detailed information about federal and state definitions of sexual assault. Other written materials were updated as well to provide more information about the options available to people filing sexual misconduct complaints, said University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler.
“There have been a number of changes to state and federal laws on sexual misconduct on college campuses,” said David Post, chair of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. “We review the UWC policies and procedures at least annually to make sure they align with new laws and to reflect our experience and feedback from the Yale community.”
The changes address two laws in particular — the federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act and Connecticut Public Act No. 14-11. Both the Campus SaVE Act, which took effect last year, and the Public Act No. 14-11, implemented in July, mandate educational programming for all university community members as well as increased transparency about sexual misconduct on campus in the form of an annual report. The state law also requires bystander intervention training.
To fulfill the awareness training requirement, Spangler emailed the entire University community a copy of the new 32-page brochure in early August. The Title IX office also distributed thousands of copies at orientation and training events, he added. According to the Campus SaVE Act, schools were required to reflect a “good faith effort” at compliance with the Campus Save Act by Oct. 1.
The brochure was compiled over the summer with the input of student interns from the Yale Office of Gender and Campus Culture, said intern and community and consent educator Chamonix Porter ’15.
Other measures for promoting awareness about sexual misconduct were already in place on campus. The CCEs began holding bystander intervention workshops for all sophomores in 2012. Several of Yale’s other sexual violence educational policies and resources — the CCE blog, for example, and the University’s Semi-Annual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct — also pre-date the recent Connecticut law, said Annemarie McDaniel ’16, public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center.
McDaniel said these pre-existing University initiatives are a necessary complement to the new written resources, sent out in August.
“By itself, any reading material is not enough, but it’s not the only action Yale is taking,” she said.
Beyond updating the University’s training methods with the publication of the brochure, the Title IX office also published a newly consolidated guide for victims of sexual assault this fall. The new document lists options available to those seeking to file a sexual misconduct complaint in a more detailed manner, Spangler said.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the national focus on sexual misconduct is a positive development, but there is some confusion created by the passing of legislation at both the federal and state level.
“It’s not that [state and federal laws] are in conflict per se, but they aren’t lined up,” Holloway said. “They’re not in concert.”
Well-intentioned national policies do not always cater well to the needs of specific college campuses, he added. It is difficult to fit a uniform policy to all college campuses, as every school is different.
But, Holloway said, Yale administrators are making a valiant effort to adapt federal guidelines to the school’s unique environment. Many initiatives launched so far, including the “It’s On Us” campaign, have been very successful, he added. The campaign is an example of how Yale students were able to take a White House initiative and make it their own, Holloway said.
Spangler said that while the University regularly revisits its policies to ensure that they are in line with national and state regulations, feedback from the campus community is more important than external legislation.
“At times, we make changes to comport with new state and federal guidance,” she said. “We more frequently make changes in response to our own experiences in implementing the procedures and to community input.”
Despite Yale’s best efforts to adhere to state and national guidelines, McDaniel said there is still more that can be done to improve campus climate.
The burden falls on all members of the Yale community to educate themselves and discuss these important issues with those around them, McDaniel added.
“The Yale community is not doing enough,” she said. “However, Yale’s sexual climate is not just defined by Yale administrators; it is defined by all of us.”
There were 64 complaints of sexual misconduct brought to the University’s attention between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year.