Surbhi Bharadwaj

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Yale for discrimination against men, in response to a complaint filed in February alleging that the University has violated Title IX with seven single-gender programs and scholarships that exclusively benefit women.

The complaint — which was taken up by the OCR on April 26, according to a department spokesman — was filed by Kursat Christoff Pekgoz, a doctoral student in English at the University of Southern California. Pekgoz filed similar complaints against two other universities, including one against USC that has also been taken up by the OCR. Pekgoz has no affiliation with Yale.

The complaint is not the first time Yale’s compliance with Title IX has been questioned. But unlike four recent lawsuits and two other OCR inquiries, this investigation has nothing to do with sexual assault adjudication.

According to Pekgoz, the complaint targets seven women’s organizations at Yale, arguing that women are no longer underrepresented in colleges and that therefore programs and scholarships that benefit exclusively women are no longer acceptable. He added that the complaint calls for such programs to be gradually phased out over several years and for Yale to adopt a gender-blind admissions policy.

“The main debate here is how to define the underrepresented sex and for us the main argument that you should look at [is] the overall enrollment rate,” Pekgoz said.

The OCR notified Pekgoz in a letter on April 26 that the federal office was opening an investigation into seven out of the 17 Yale initiatives that Pekgoz claimed in his complaint “exclude or otherwise discriminate against men.”

The seven initiatives are the Women Faculty Forum, Working Women’s Network, the Yale University Women’s Organization, Yale Women’s Campaign School, Yale Women Innovators, Smart Women Securities and Women Empowering Women Leadership Conference.

The OCR dismissed allegations against the other Yale initiatives that Pekgoz included in his original complaint — such as the Yale Women’s Center and the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale — on the grounds that they do not exclude men or are private or non-profit organizations that are not affiliated with the University.

The decision to open an investigation does not imply any stance on the merits of Pekgoz’s complaint, the letter said.

Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said Yale’s policies are “fair and balanced” and in accordance with the law.

Originally from Turkey, Pekgoz said he identified as feminist until he gradually realized that the fundamental assumptions of feminism are no longer valid. At Yale, the student body comprises roughly equal numbers of men and women. Pekgoz said it is unfair that, unlike the initiatives targeted in the complaint, Yale does not have equivalent programs exclusively for men.

Pekgoz’s complaint comes as the United States grapples with gender inequality

in higher education institutions, Hollywood, Capitol Hill and beyond. The #MeToo movement, in which women have spoken out against sexual assault and harassment by men in power, has brought down film producer Harvey Weinstein, comedian Bill Cosby and most recently New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman.

The last time Yale came into OCR’s crosshairs was in 2017, when the federal office opened an investigation into a Yale alumnus’ allegation that the University discriminated against him in its Title IX procedures because he was a man.

The case alleges that the student, an anonymous member of Yale College’s class of 2015, first experienced discrimination when a teaching assistant for an introductory philosophy course reported him to Yale’s Title IX officials after he submitted an essay that included a discussion of what might drive someone to commit rape. After two female students accused him of sexual assault separately in the spring and fall of 2017, Yale put the student on probation for the rest of his Yale career and banned contact between him and the two women.

In addition to filing a complaint with the OCR, the accused student also filed a lawsuit in federal district court. The OCR dropped his case in September 2017, because of a rule prohibiting the office from investigating cases being adjudicated in federal court.

In total, four male students have filed lawsuits against the University alleging gender discrimination under Title IX.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu

Jingyi Cui | jingyi.cui@yale.edu

Correction, May 15: An earlier version of this article misspelled Kursat Christoff Pekgoz’s name.

  • Higherominous Bosh

    One might also argue that, given Yale’s ~50/50 M/F ratio (versus national averages and implied representation in applicant pools), Yale disadvantages females, applying a form of “affirmative action” to male applicants.

    That is, similar to the way that Asian and Asian American students are [allegedly] discriminated against (in that they vie for admission to Yale in their own, arguably relatively more competitive cohort), Yale’s admissions bar may have been lowered for male versus female candidate in pursuit of gender “balance.” Just sayin’.

    • Ralphiec88

      [sound of heads exploding]

      • Higherominous Bosh

        Based on U.S. DOE estimates, in 2018 women will earn a disproportionate share of college degrees at every level of higher education for the 12th straight year.

        In 2018, 134 women will earn a bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men (female majority since 1982), with the gap projected tor rise to 138 by 2027. That is, persons identifying as female will earn 57% of all BAs.

        data: nces.ed[dot]gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_318.10.asp

    • JT Coriolis

      Nonsense.

      While all colleges are now 60/40, the top men do well and enroll at high rates at the top schools.

      Second, if it were true that men are given a leg up, it would not be preferential, but survival. Schools with too few men have difficulty attracting women. Ensuring a balance would make economic sense.

      Finally, if that does not suit you, perhaps MIT, CalTech, G.Tech should stop giving special preference to female students?

    • John Dingle Barry

      Maybe the best applicants should get admitted to the University regardless of sex, race, age, social status, sexual orientation or legacy.

      • Anon

        Then there would be very few minorities.

    • Bobby Obvious

      Flawed analysis. While the data shows that females comprise the majority of those applying to college, the statistics don’t then show that girls are the majority of the best applicants. The articles I’ve read show that poorly performing females are doing much better than poorly performing males, but the same is not true at the high end. I couldn’t find the articles in a quick search, but you can see this point in average SAT scores where males outperform females: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-percentile-ranks-gender-race-ethnicity.pdf
      Only college-bound kids take the SAT, so it’s a higher performing subset of all high school students.

      • Higherominous Bosh

        Raycis’

        /s

  • Bobby Obvious

    Face it, you got a problem Yale

  • Nancy Morris

    It is very important for Yale to cultivate and maintain good relationships, and at least civil relationships, with a great many people in the Trump administration, especially its senior members, especially Secretary DeVos. This investigation is more clear evidence of that fact. I write that without addressing the merits of this investigation or the questions of whether or to what extent Yale has in fact attended to such cultivation and maintenance.

    Ignoring the current federal executive, or keeping it’s members at arms length, or attempting to work around them, or looking to other sources, are DEFINITELY NOT viable options.

  • Medi Zerovan

    “Roughly 50-50” is how we refer to 58% female vs 42% male these days.

  • JT Coriolis

    “The #MeToo movement, in which women have spoken out against sexual assault and harassment by men in power, has brought down film producer Harvey Weinstein, comedian Bill Cosby and most recently New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman.”

    Weinstein issue predated metoo
    Bill Cosby was beyond metoo
    As for Schneiderman — not metoo, but educated professional well-off women coming back for more abuse.

  • Rory

    women opression will exist as long as patriarchy. female representation in important institutions has to be seen as an achievement or at least something to recognise, but to demonize. i can bet he has never left college some hours and analized women reality; this is serious due to the functional labour that a university has to have with its community.
    it seems more like a trick against yale than a political position; it is not even theoretically sustained!

  • Anon

    He is right. These single sex only, single race only, single orientation only organizations, clubs, scholarships, lounges, opportunities, internships are purely exclusionary, discriminatory, and wrong.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Good! About damn time.