Starting this month, students and faculty members seeking to bring a complaint to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct will be able to do so even years after the alleged incident.
In the UWC’s most recent review of its procedures, published on Oct. 2, the body decided to abolish time limits for both formal and informal complaints. Previously, formal complaints could only be lodged up to two years after the incident, and informal complaints could not be filed after more than four years. These restrictions were repealed based on community feedback, UWC Chair David Post said. However, most students interviewed said they did not know about either the change or the original policy.
“We want to give complainants sufficient time to process their experiences and consider their options, and eliminating time limits advances that goal,” Post said.
While Post could not comment on specific cases or feedback the UWC had received, in general, he said most complaints are filed within a year of the alleged episode of misconduct.
This change came on the heels of discussion between the UWC and several campus groups involved with sexual misconduct — including the Title IX coordinators, the Yale Police Department, the Communication and Consent Educators, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center and residential college deans and masters, Post said. UWC members, including faculty as well as graduate and undergraduate students, also participated in an all-day training session on Oct. 10 in which they were briefed on policy updates and discussed how the committee should handle upcoming cases, UWC member Marija Kamceva ’15 said.
Yale regularly revisits its sexual misconduct policies to make sure that they align with national and state standards, University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said. But this change to the time limits came more from internal assessments and discussions than from legislative changes, she said.
There have never been any time limits on bringing complaints to Title IX coordinators, Post said. But for students, seeking the help of the Title IX committee is similar to filing an informal complaint with the UWC, because both appeals cannot result in formal disciplinary action. Faculty and staff who speak to the Title IX coordinators may obtain more formal outcomes, he added.
Whether a respondent brings a complaint to the UWC or the Title IX coordinator is entirely up to him or her, said Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Yale College Angela Gleason.
“It’s really up to the individual,” she said. “There are so many moving parts that it’s not predictable.”
While Post said the updated policies were published on the provost’s website as soon as they were revised, 15 out of 16 students interviewed — including one CCE — said they did not know that the time limits had existed in the first place. Adriana Embus ’17 said the fact that there had ever been a time limit is “crazy.”
Jessica Gao ’17 said she was angry that the limits had existed and relieved that they were now eliminated.
“It’s really important, especially in our rape culture, to give sexual assault survivors the time that they need to work through the process themselves and decide what course of action to take,” she said.
Chloe Tsang ’17 said she was aware of the former time limits but not of their recent repeal. She added she thinks this is a positive development.
Despite the recent change, Post said the UWC will continue to encourage individuals to come forward as soon as possible with their complaints.
“As time passes, evidence may be lost. Quicker complaints are also important for protecting the community from serial offenders,” he said.
The UWC, established in 2011, is just one of several options for University community members seeking help after sexual assault. Complainants also may choose to discuss their incidents with Title IX coordinators, SHARE or a variety of other resources, according to the Sexual Misconduct Response at Yale website.