Just over 145 Yale alumni signed an open letter addressed to the Yale administration demanding that the University maintain specific procedures for cases of sexual misconduct in light of the Department of Education’s recent proposals to revise Title IX.
Last Friday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced plans to relax the department’s enforcement of Obama-era Title IX protections for cases of campus sexual assault while her office overhauls guidelines for universities and colleges.
The alumni letter, which went public on Monday, claims that the Department of Education is betraying student survivors of sexual assault. In addition, the letter implores Yale to “recommit itself to doing right” by pledging to maintain a number of previously instituted policies on sexual misconduct. These include granting accommodations for mental health care to victims while disciplinary actions are pending and using a preponderance-of-evidence standard in judging the accused, among other procedures. The letter further calls on Yale to convey to DeVos’ office the importance of these Title IX protections.
“Our thinking was that we wanted to use our voices as alumni to call on the school to do right by all of its students regarding signals from the Department of Education,” said Alexandra Brodsky ’12 LAW ’16, a co-author and signatory of the letter. “The school has spoken so proudly of its progress the past couple of years, and I really hope that they will live up to that vision of leadership.”
On Friday, University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler posted a message regarding Yale’s responsibility to address sexual misconduct in line with Title IX. In her message, Spangler stated that Yale does not plan to deviate from the current standards of evidence used in sexual misconduct cases and remains “committed to policies that effectively address sexual misconduct and processes that are fair to all.” Brodsky described Spangler’s message as “vague and noncommittal.”
Regarding the alumni letter, Spangler told the News that she was pleased to see alumni express interest in the issue of sexual misconduct at Yale and looks forward to engaging with members of the community as the Department of Education proceeds with the rulemaking process.
Brodsky is co-founder of Know Your IX, an organization that works to empower students to end sexual misconduct in high schools and colleges. She was also one of the 16 people who filed a Title IX complaint against Yale in 2011 that argued that Yale was a sexually hostile environment. Before making the letter public on Monday, Brodsky coordinated with undergraduate groups, such as Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale, to make sure the letter was “in concert” with their goals.
Helen Price ’18, co-founder and co-director of Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale, told the News that Brodsky has always kept strong ties with her organization, which fully supports the alumni letter’s demands.
Hannah Zeavin ’12, another signatory of the letter, said that, as someone who participated in filing the Title IX complaint in 2011, she thought it was important to send a message that sexual misconduct on campus is an ongoing issue for both current students and alumni.
“It’s extremely important for Yale alumni to express their disapproval of the Department of Education’s new interim guidelines,” said Keturah James ’14, LAW ’19, another signatory. “Many alumni fought for the protections and policies that Yale implemented in accordance with the 2011 and 2014 guidances, and we need to make sure that they remain in place.”
The letter’s other signatories include Catherine Lhamon LAW ’96, former assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education and current chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Fatima Goss Graves LAW ’01, the president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.
Goss Graves told the News that the letter offered an ideal opportunity to support the Yale community as it confronts the “confusion” generated by the Department of Education’s new guidance.
“I hope that we will continue to see that not just Yale but [also] many other schools use this period of time to recommit to the important work they’ve been doing and to reassure their campuses … that they are not going to implement new practices that will be harmful to their students and drive reports of sexual assault back into the shadows,” Goss Graves said.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org