A day after former President Jimmy Carter rebuked Yale on its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a small group of students and faculty members gathered to discuss the University’s sexual climate.
On Wednesday afternoon, members of the Yale Public Health Coalition invited the University community to speak with administrators and students involved in the promotion of a safe and healthy sexual climate on campus. The forum discussion celebrated the positive action already underway on campus, while inviting candid remarks about the work still left to be done. The small and intimate nature of the discussion, with five panelists and seven participants, helped to foster honest conversation, Lapp added. During the forum, students and administrators referenced Carter’s remarks, the recent News’ article “Enough alcohol to call it rape?” and discussed methods to improve the existing climate.
Event organizer and YPHC member Cassidy Lapp ’15 said she hoped the forum would begin many more conversations on campus that promote positive discussions as opposed to “the negative ones” that she says have been the focus of campus discussion.
“I wanted to host this forum after reading about the sensationalization of Yale’s sexual climate in the news,” she said. “After seeing that this was a conversation happening on other campuses, I wanted to see how this conversation could be taken further.”
Sexual Literacy Forum facilitator and panelist Stephanie Rogers ’17, a staff reporter for the News, said she hoped the discussion would provide a raw and honest dialogue between groups advocating for a safe sexual climate.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, a forum panelist, said the talk enabled discussion of broad themes in relation to sexual harassment. Too often discussions of sexual violence focus on the most extreme version of sexual violence, she said.
“What we see as individual, isolated things can often be part of something larger,” she said during the forum. “Therefore, we have to acknowledge there is something important in shifting from just responding to prevention as well.”
Praising the work of the Communication and Consent Educators and SeLF, Boyd and Carole Goldberg, director of the SHARE Center and another panelist, assured students during the event that there is a lot of work going on beneath the public eye, and that great strides had been taken to promote a healthier sexual climate on campus. Over the past few years, more students have felt comfortable using the SHARE Center’s resources for anonymous and confidential discussions with its staff, Goldberg said.
Jez Marston ’15, codirector of SeLF and another panelist, said he hopes that SeLF — a program that consists of small groups of students discussing different levels of sex education, desire and individual boundaries — will help provide outlets for these discussions.
During the talk, Rogers said SeLF is piloting an initiative with several different fraternities to work with students who “may not be already generating positive discussions surrounding sexual climate and misconduct.” She said the early success of this initiative is largely due to its being driven by students.
Panelist Layla Khuri ’16, representing the Yale College Council, added that the “It’s On Us, Yale” campaign was an example of how student-driven initiatives can be most effective because they add a sense of “genuine compassion.”
“The fact that people are still talking about [the campaign] shows that it was effective,” she said during the talk.
The SHARE center was founded in 2006.