Yale’s sexual misconduct policies are failing its students. I quickly understood this when I reported a case of sexual misconduct during my first year. After speaking to and surveying other students, it became clear that it wasn’t just me: rather, I uncovered a more widespread problem with Yale’s practices.
For my senior thesis, I surveyed 245 Yale undergraduates about their perceptions and experiences with Yale’s Title IX policies. I asked students how they would rate their (or a friend’s) experience reporting sexual misconduct at Yale. Out of all the respondents, 75 percent rated their experience as bad (49 percent) or very bad (26 percent). Title IX must be held accountable for their harmful actions and the misinformation that they have spread to vulnerable students seeking help.
The process of obtaining and enforcing a no contact agreement is extremely confusing. A no contact agreement allows victims of sexual misconduct to have a mutual agreement with another student to not contact each other in person or virtually. These orders are mutual because there is no evidence required. However, students who request no contact agreements feel that is unfair. One interviewee explained, “He isn’t allowed to come to my college because he was coming there and harassing me. Why can’t I go where I want on campus? I’m not the one harassing him.” Even formal complaints which require evidence and a hearing result in similarly mutual agreements. I only found this out when it happened to me. For a full year of college, after going through a formal complaint process that found the perpetrator responsible, there were spaces on campus cordoned off from me.
It is important to explain that no contact orders are slightly different from no contact agreements. No contact orders can only occur as a result of a formal hearing that finds a person responsible for sexual misconduct and can result in disciplinary action if the no contact order is broken.
I, along with many interviewees, believed that what was sent to us in the email including the no contact agreement/order was what we had to follow. I was never accused of any type of misconduct, but I was told there were certain places I was not allowed to be. I chose to report my assault, and because of my report, I was not allowed to move around campus freely. I was not told that I could opt-out of the mutual nature of the order and have only the perpetrator’s movements restricted. While I had no desire to see my assaulter, I also hated the idea of him limiting where I was allowed to go on campus. Title IX explained to me that it was for my own protection so that I do not run into him. When I spoke to Title IX recently, they explained that there is no reason that victims of sexual misconduct need to be restricted from parts of campus. This was hidden from me and many of the individuals I interviewed.
Title IX representatives have also ranged from vaguely inaccurate to downright counterfactual when approached for clarification around no contact agreements. One student shared with me the email that Deputy Title IX Coordinator of Yale College Katie Shirley wrote to them about their no contact agreement. The following has been shortened to preserve anonymity: “failure to comply with the terms of this agreement may be subject to disciplinary procedures … Failure to maintain this confidentiality may be considered retaliation and be subject to disciplinary procedures.” This email very heavily implies that Title IX would subject victims of sexual misconduct to “disciplinary procedures” if they shared their experiences, which is completely untrue. Although Jason Killheffer, the senior deputy Title IX coordinator, explained that this was not the impression they wanted students to receive, their office was completely unable to explain how an email like this could have been sent. This email raises questions about accountability within Title IX surrounding student-officer interactions.
I spoke with students who were scared to tell close friends about their experiences, believing it might break confidentiality. Another interviewee shared how they did not put their assaulter on a blacklist fearing similar repercussions. This confusion is reinforced and even perpetuated by Title IX. Students must know that they can never face repercussions for speaking about their personal experiences.
Through gross negligence and opaque communications, Title IX creates an unsafe environment for its students. When students feel like they cannot share their experiences, it puts them and those around them in direct danger. Title IX also gives false security to its students by implying that no contact agreements are enforceable. Many interviewees had their perpetrators break no contact agreements, with no repercussions aside from an email sent to the perpetrator. I experienced the inefficacy of these first-hand. When my assaulter entered the place where I worked, I had no recourse as Title IX had not reached out to update my no contact order — despite it being required by my UWC case.
Title IX’s nebulous claims about its own jurisdiction simultaneously give students a misplaced sense of protection and intimidate them with empty threats. It should be no surprise to anyone that we are reluctant to come forward. As one interviewee put it: “What is Yale teaching us to do after we graduate? Not to report in the future.”
Maddie Whoriskey ’23 is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. She is a Sociology major in the Education Studies program. She can be reached at email@example.com