The decision by Yale’s 13 graduate and professional school deans not to publish school-specific data on the prevalence of campus sexual misconduct has provoked widespread debate in the University community, pitting those who demand total transparency against others who say the numbers are a distraction from broader efforts to improve Yale’s sexual climate.
Last September, the Association of American Universities released university-specific results for the 27 schools, including Yale, that participated in its campus climate survey. The results, which University President Peter Salovey called “extremely disturbing,” showed an above-average rate of sexual assault and harassment among both undergraduates and graduate and professional students at Yale. This preliminary round of data, which can be found on the University’s website, distinguished between undergraduate versus graduate and professional numbers, but did not further break down the numbers for each graduate and professional school — thus combining the responses of 3,364 students at schools with distinct social and academic climates.
Two months later, the University obtained survey results for each individual graduate and professional school from Westat, the outside research company that developed the survey. Although administrators passed the data onto each school’s dean — and although the numbers have been presented to students at town-hall-style meetings over this past semester — the deans have declined to make the information available to the general public.
In response, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate has launched a lobbying campaign aimed at collecting the data for a public report that would compare best practices across schools. But administrators at the graduate and professional schools say publishing the data would actually get in the way of the important task of curbing campus sexual assault and harassment.
“Students have expressed to me that they would like to know what the landscape is in other schools and how they’re addressing them in each particular school,” GPSS President Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18 said. “People do want to see [the school-specific numbers].”
But University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler told the News that the aggregate data is “representative of each school’s challenge and more than sufficiently compelling to spur all of us to further action.”
She added that the figures given to the deans of each school represent only a limited sample of the questions on the survey, due to technical constraints linked to the relative sizes of the different schools.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley, School of Drama Dean James Bundy and School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern echoed Spangler’s argument that school-specific data is not necessary to convey the scope of the problem. The remaining deans either did not respond to requests for comment or did not address questions about the decision not to release school-specific figures.
“The University-wide data published online is sufficient to illustrate the gravity of the situation,” Bundy said. “Our energy is best spent on making changes on the ground that help faculty, staff and students do this work.”
Additionally, Cooley said, publicly releasing the data would encourage unhealthy comparison among the schools rather than promote solutions to campus sexual assault and harassment.
But she added in a follow-up interview that she would consider releasing sections of the GSAS-specific data after each department meets with students to discuss the newly available numbers — a process that will take the rest of the semester. The numbers for the GSAS, which were displayed at a meeting last week, showed that the school’s data was nearly identical to Yale’s aggregate graduate and professional school numbers.
None of the professional school deans interviewed expressed a similar willingness to release the school-specific data in the future.
Meanwhile, student senators in the GPSS are continuing to call for the public release of each school’s disaggregated data.
“It comes down to the dean of which school’s decision to release the data,” Mo said. “It’s important to have an idea of not only what are the experiences of each of the students at the individual schools, but how those different experiences will require different solutions.”
In response to questions from the News, SAFER, a national organization dedicated to preventing sexual assault and harassment on campus, also called on Yale to publicly release the school-specific figures.
Hayden Golden, a communications official for SAFER, said the data should be released so that community members can compare how various prevention strategies have fared across the different schools.
“The most informed policies and programming to combat sexual and gender violence at Yale will come from transparency, and that means allowing the community to see the AAU Campus Climate Survey results in their entirety,” Golden said. “A variety of cultural factors are in play within different departments and schools, and they need to be identified and addressed.”
Still, the GPSS’s push to secure the release of the school-specific numbers has not attracted universal support from graduate and professional students on campus.
Graduate Student Assembly Chair Elizabeth Salm GRD ’18 said she does not think releasing the GSAS-specific data would yield any actionable information, because the scale of the problem varies from department to department and the school-specific data does not divide the responses by discipline.
“The data is the whole grad school, so it won’t necessarily reveal problem areas,” Salm said. “I’m not sure it would be necessarily as useful.”
GSA member Chris Geissler GRD ’20 said the AAU survey was not designed to provide conclusive information about the relatively small student communities in professional schools like the School of Art and the School of Music.
He added that University officials should consider designing different surveys tailored to the specific cultures of each of the graduate and professional schools in order to get a better sense of how sexual assault and harassment play out across campus.
“It would definitely be valuable to see how each school is doing with regards to these issues, but it may make more sense to release more targeted surveys that address the needs and concerns of different kinds of programs,” Geissler said. “Although major themes, such as the power dynamics of mentorship, are present all across the University, there will be differences between the experience of students.”
School of Management Dean Edward Snyder told the News he plans to administer a more targeted survey to business students in the spring of next year.
Nine of 10 other graduate and professional school students interviewed said school-specific data should be made publicly available, although some expressed concerns about jeopardizing the confidentiality of respondents.
“The lack of solid statistics from Yale is a huge problem,” Debayan Gupta GRD ’17 said, adding that the aggregate data does not offer “meaningful” numbers. “Not releasing the school-specific data allows individual schools to absolve their responsibility.”
The aggregate numbers, Gupta said, do not reflect which specific schools have fallen especially short in their efforts to combat sexual misconduct. He added that a breakdown of the statistics would make it easier to identify the sources of problems and develop suitable intervention strategies.
It remains unclear whether the other Ivy League schools that participated in the survey plan to release school-specific figures. Title IX officers at Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania all did not respond to numerous emails and phone calls requesting comment. Princeton was the only Ivy League school that did not participate in the survey.