Over 300 Yale students and faculty members from all over campus gathered in the Afro-American Cultural Center Monday night to discuss Yale’s sexual culture.
The town hall, a collaborative effort between Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and the Yale Black Women’s Coalition, was meant to create a broad, productive discussion about the current status of Yale’s sexual climate and how it can be improved, USAY co-director Helen Price ’18 said. The event follows weeks of discussion about campus sexual climate, a conversation sparked by controversies surrounding the former captain of the Yale men’s basketball team, Jack Montague, who was expelled in February for violating the University’s sexual misconduct policies.
“We can make Yale a better place. We can make it a healthier environment at the end of our four years than when we first got here,” Price said at the town hall.
Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center Program Associate Amy Myers opened the event by outlining the resources available to undergraduate students who have been victims of sexual misconduct. She noted that students can file both formal and informal complaints with Title IX coordinators or Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. They can also have conversations with undergraduate Communication and Consent Educators, members of the SHARE Center, peer liaisons and freshman counselors.
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Myers had teal ribbons — which represent sexual assault and sexual violence awareness and support — available for those who wished to wear them.
La Casa Cultural Director Eileen Galvez, who spoke after Myers, highlighted the importance of having conversations about sexual misconduct in order to improve the campus climate. It is fine for the campus to “have dirty laundry,” as long as it is acknowledged rather than ignored, Galvez said.
Price then introduced a topic for large-group discussion: what should be considered an ideal sexual climate at Yale, and how the campus community can work toward that ideal. Attendees put forth a wide variety of responses ranging from educating students to recognize the existence of intimate-partner violence, to destigmatizing the act of reporting incidents.
“I feel there needs to be more inclusive and intersectional conversations on sexual climate,” Sarah Armstrong ’18 said. “That includes supporting male survivors and recognizing that sexual misconduct can occur within a relationship.”
Several students present spoke about the importance of making resources more available and clear to the overall Yale community — not just undergraduates, but also faculty members and graduate students. The town hall was open to the entire University population. In addition to the hundreds of students, administrators such as Yale College Title IX Coordinator Angela Gleason and Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard were in attendance.
Some students’ comments focused specifically on the UWC process. One student present said the act of reporting a complaint should be one in which the complainant feels in control at all times. Another student called for adjustments to the UWC policies available online to include clearer language.
Many students also made suggestions about Yale’s current sexual education system. One recommended that bystander intervention training — which all Yale College sophomores are required to attend — occur in freshman year as well. Many present agreed with the idea.
“I liked the idea of moving up bystander intervention training to freshman year and using Yale’s resources to restructure the way we talk about sexuality,” attendee Mojique Tyler ’19 said. “The organizers said we get to shape how the next generation thinks about this and I’m hopeful that we and those who come after us can make this better.”
After roughly 30 minutes of discussion, the audience divided into smaller groups of six to eight students to discuss more concrete suggestions for improving Yale’s sexual climate.
Afterwards, interim dean of Ezra Stiles Michelle Morgan GRD ’16 helped summarize the groups’ conversations. Suggestions included having CCEs speak to each student organization at the start of the school year and creating a list of suggested readings on sexual misconduct.
“It was important that this conversation be future-focused,” USAY board member Lindsey Hogg ’17 said. “It was beautiful. It proves people are interested in talking about something that is usually so hard to talk about.”
Several attendees noted the impressive turnout. Armstrong said she was impressed with the size of the crowd given USAY’s relatively recent creation.
USAY, founded in fall 2015, will host its inaugural Fearless Conference on April 9.