In the chaos of the last week of classes, it’s easy enough to miss an email or two. But there’s one we’d like you to take note of: the Yale College Council and the Women’s Center’s report on sexual misconduct policies and procedures, released on Tuesday. The report — which we helped to write along with Sarika Pandrangi ’17 and Isabel Cruz ’17 — is based on the results of a January survey that collected undergraduate feedback on Yale’s current policies and procedures. It contains 20 recommendations for action on the part of administrators, faculty and students.
In writing this report, we were inspired by the YCC’s September 2013 report on mental health. The mental health report, also based on the results of a student survey, outlined a list of recommendations for reforming Yale’s mental health services. Over the past year, it has played a critical role in galvanizing and grounding campus-wide conversations on mental health, including during February’s forum on mental health.
We hope that our report contributes to campus dialogue in a similar way. Through our roles on the YCC and the Women’s Center board, we realized that there was a gap between students and administrators that we wanted to bridge. We wanted to provide information to our peers, both to educate and anchor our campus and to ground our community discussions in real facts and data. We also wanted to convey student concerns to administrators; we particularly hoped to capture the thoughts of students who had chosen not to report an incident and therefore had never been in contact with the Title IX Office.
One major finding that emerged from our report was that students are confused and misinformed about Yale’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures. This is understandable — these policies and procedures must be nuanced, and are thus also complex. In the coming months, administrators will be working to develop new educational resources that streamline and clarify information on the reporting and complaint processes. But the responsibility is not on administrators alone; we hope that students will take this as an opportunity to learn about these processes, to educate ourselves so that our campus discourse is not premised on misinformation.
Our report also shed light on some of the barriers to reporting sexual misconduct. While the Title IX Office will be working to strengthen the process, students must also play a role in reform. Together, we can create communities that eliminate any stigma around reporting. Students should not have to worry about being judged by their friends. We have plenty of campus resources that can be helpful with this. SHARE and the Communication and Consent Educators, for example, offer helpful guidance on supporting friends through the reporting process.
Our work differed from that of previous YCC reports in that we collaborated with the University’s Title IX Steering Committee throughout the process. After our preliminary data analysis, we sat down with members of the committee to seek out their input in developing our recommendations. Once our recommendations were developed, we met with committee members to talk through them and develop clear action steps.
There are moments that call for strong activism outside the system. But that doesn’t preclude us from pursuing partnerships. We can work alongside administrators to identify areas for reform, while also maintaining pressure and accountability. Last night, Yale screened “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that explores the work activists are doing to place pressure on universities to address sexual misconduct. Still, putting pressure on administrators doesn’t rule out collaborating with the University and working toward our common goal of building sexual respect. In our case, collaboration made our activism more powerful.
For students looking to get involved in the movement against sexual violence right now, take the Campus Climate Assessment as a first step. This survey closes today. Unlike the YCC and Women’s Center survey, it is for all Yale students — not just undergraduates — and it measures incidence rates, not just perceptions of the reporting process. It is unprecedented in its size and scope, and its results will enable administrators at Yale and 26 other schools to better develop policies that will affect generations of future students.
It isn’t always easy to join in campus discourse on sexual misconduct. These are sensitive discussions, ones too often limited to particular segments of the community. We hope our report will serve as a tool that opens up the conversation.
Emma Goldberg is a junior in Saybrook College and a former opinion editor for the News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elizabeth Villarreal is a junior in Saybrook College and a former head coordinator for the Women’s Center. Contact her at email@example.com .