Yale’s Title IX policies have been formally updated so students who report an incident of sexual misconduct cannot be disciplined for violating COVID-19 guidelines at the time of that incident.
According to the new policy, coordinated by the Yale College Council and Title IX office, any student who reports “in good faith” that they witnessed or were the victim of sexual misconduct will not face disciplinary charges for failing to abide by the COVID-19 health and safety requirements of the Yale Community Compact.
“I am grateful for the work that our Sexual Wellness team and the Title IX Office has done to ensure that students will not be disinclined to report sexual misconduct,” YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22 wrote in an email to the News. “It was especially helpful that several of those who worked on this initiative are members of the Undergraduate Title IX Advisory Board and have a robust understanding of our current amnesty policies.”
Last October, members of the YCC Sexual Wellness Policy Team identified that fear of reprimand for violating the community compact — a set of pandemic safety protocols that every in-residence student has agreed to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic — may dissuade students from reporting sexual misconduct.
According to YCC Sexual Wellness Co-Chairs Michael Bochkur Dratver ’23 and Kinsale Hueston ’23, student representatives of the YCC met with Title IX Office administrators, including Assistant Provost Jason Killheffer and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Ksenia Sidorenko, to propose an amendment to the existing sexual misconduct response and prevention policies in November.
They learned that the Title IX Office was already operating in line with their proposal and had not been pursuing disciplinary measures against violators of the community compact when they reported sexual misconduct, even though the rule had not been publicized or formalized.
“It was also important to us that the Yale community be aware that those who have witnessed or experienced an act of sexual misconduct had community compact amnesty,” Dratver and Hueston said.
The language of the new policy, announced to students on Feb. 15, resembles a preexisting amnesty policy designed to protect Yale College students from being charged with drug and alcohol violations when seeking medical assistance. Both policies recognize that the possibility of being disciplined may deter students from seeking help or reporting incidents to authorities during emergencies.
While an awareness campaign for the official policy began in early February, the policy applies retroactively to any acts of sexual misconduct that were witnessed or experienced since the community compact’s creation at the start of the fall semester.
The provision does not prevent the University from taking nondisciplinary actions, such as contact tracing, to protect the health and wellness of the community.
“Sometimes change can cause new issues to emerge,” Paulo Gaviria ’23, a member of the YCC Sexual Wellness Team, said. “This issue is completely new to this semester and last. Frankly, we’re not sure how long this set-up for campus will last. But if it does continue, we hope people feel safe when speaking out about sexual assault and harassment.”
To report sexual misconduct, contact SHARE at (203) 432-2000 or email email@example.com.
Julia Bialek | firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Tian | email@example.com
Correction, Feb. 23: The quotes attributed to Dratver in a previous version of this article were in fact from a joint statement written by Dratver and Hueston. The story has been updated.