Months after Yale launched an external audit of its discrimination and harassment policies, the report recommended that the University rename and expand the Office for Equal Opportunities Programs and hire a full-time professional to help adjudicate all allegations of discrimination, according to three individuals familiar with the report.
In November, Yale charged Associate Vice President for Human Resources Donna Cable and Vice President for the Office for Institutional Equity at Duke University Benjamin D. Reese Jr. with compiling a report on the effectiveness of the University’s existing infrastructure for reviewing discrimination allegations. Reese met with administrators, faculty members, staff and students last fall to gather feedback on how to foster a more inclusive campus.
Currently, Yale does not have a standardized procedure for addressing complaints of racial discrimination across schools and departments. But in November, University Secretary Kimberly Goff-Crews told the News that the University decided not to institute a separate office for solely adjudicating Title VI complaints — those that fall under the federal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color and national origin at educational institutions.
Still, according to three anonymous individuals, Reese’s report recommended that Yale centralize its resources and delegate the adjudication of various allegations of discrimination, including those based on race, religion and ideology to the revamped Office for Equal Opportunities Programs. The anonymous individuals added that the report also stated that the University should formalize grievance procedures for discrimination complaints, although the specifics of those procedures had not been finalized as of early March. Goff-Crews gave a presentation summarizing the report’s findings to the Student Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — which was formed last November to solicit input for the review — on March 4, according to two of the anonymous individuals.
“I think students are glad about the findings of the report, as long as the University sticks with what Reese recommended,” said one of the anonymous individuals, a member of the group.
The three anonymous individuals spoke with the News on the condition of anonymity in fear of retribution from the administration. According to those individuals, their briefings on Reese’s report were conducted off the record and confidentially.
According to the individuals, the report also recommended that Yale hire more staff at the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs who can train dean’s designees — those who receive student concerns and advise administrators on how to promote diversity.
“It’s an excellent report, and we will release it and announce our response to it soon,” Goff-Crews wrote in an email to the News on Thursday.
According to Goff-Crews, the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs has overseen Yale’s compliance with Title VI and other federal and state discrimination laws since 1980. The current Yale entities that address Title VI complaints include the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, the Dean’s Office, the Provost’s Office and the President’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Harassment. Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs Valarie Stanley can resolve Title VI complaints informally or help individuals navigate the more formal University grievance procedures. Students can also register complaints with their dean if the respondent is a member of the faculty or administration of the student’s school. If not, a student can also pursue the Provost’s Procedure for Student Complaints, as per the University website. While the President’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Harassment is also available for students who do not wish to register their complaints with their dean or the provost, this committee is rarely called upon, as per the University website.
The details of how these resources will be centralized to create one office to adjudicate allegations of discrimination remain unclear. The University underwent a similar consolidating procedure in 2013, when it created the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct to handle Title IX complaints of gender-based discrimination.
In an interview with the News, Yale College Council President Saloni Rao ’20 said Goff-Crews met with Rao and other student leaders Feb. 12 to discuss Reese’s recommendations. At the meeting, the group discussed how to best communicate Reese’s report with students.
According to a March 11 email Goff-Crews sent to members of the advisory group, which was obtained by the News, the University has previewed Reese’s recommendations and is planning to release the report soon.
“We were asked to make an announcement sometime after the AAU survey on sexual misconduct closed, which happened this week,” the email stated. “We are eager to share this news with the campus. However, given how close we are to spring break, we have decided to wait until after spring break to release the report and make any announcements so that they will receive the full attention of the Yale community.”
Yale’s review of its existing infrastructure to address discrimination and harassment complaints came as a response to a racial incident last May when Yale Police officers interrogated Lolade Siyonbola GRD ’19, who is black, for more than 15 minutes after former graduate student Sarah Braasch, who is white, reported Siyonbola to the police for sleeping in a Hall of Graduate Studies common room. The incident made national headlines that week, and nearly 3,000 people around the country signed a petition demanding that Yale remove Braasch from the school as punishment for the alleged discrimination. A coalition of black graduate and professional students, including Siyonbola, also released an open letter noting that Braasch’s behavior “was met with little consequence” and demanding that the University establish a dedicated Title VI office, among other recommendations.
No Ivy League university has a separate office dedicated to addressing Title VI complaints, while they all have institutions similar to Yale’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org