April 8, 2011
Yale University is known for many things--its excellent drama and music programs, top ranked law school, its rivalry with Harvard and, of course, Handsome Dan. In recent weeks, however, the prestigious university has been in the news for something much different--accusations of having a hostile sexual environment.
According to The New York Times, on March 15 a 26-page complaint had been filed against the institution with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Sixteen students and recent graduates stated that the university violated the federal gender-equality law, Title IX, for its "inadequate response to a long trend of public sexual harassment."
While the complaint has not been made public, The New York Times noted that it does include an incident last fall when pledges of a fraternity paraded through a residential courtyard repeating chants that encouraged rape.
While some students took offense to the spectacle, others simply ignored it.
"I thought it was really obnoxious and closed the window," said, junior Catherine Sheard.
Many, however, felt it was indeed an issue that needed to be addressed.
"I don't think that the sexual culture is worse here than it is at other places," said sophomore Caroline Tracey. "But the fact that we seem to have one incendiary, misogynistic act a year seems to say that the university isn't being punitive enough against these large-scale activities."
According to theYale Daily News, Dean Mary Miller said in a statement that administrators believed they had not violated Title IX. Nonetheless, she said the university would cooperate fully with the OCR and would use this as an opportunity to "learn and improve". Furthermore, noted CNN, she stressed that "...Yale does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind".
As a result, the university announced it would launch a new committee--consisting of students, faculty and administrative members--on sexual misconduct. The committee will enhance the school's existing processes for handling sexual harassment complaints and will ensure that all misconduct is addressed properly.
Administrators told The New York Times that punishing students for public episodes of sexual harassment, such as the fraternity chants, as well as private abuse can be problematic. Furthermore, most victims don't want to go to the police or other disciplinary authorities--studies have shown that nationwide, less than 10 percent of college students who have been sexually assaulted report the incident to someone in authority. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged the issue earlier this week and discussed guidelines to better safeguard students from sexual violence.
Yale officials hope the new committee will also help fix the problem on their campus.
"We believe that this streamlining will make it simpler for students and faculty to initiate and pursue any complaint," said University Provost Peter Salovey in an email that was sent to faculty and students, reported CNN.
The committee is set to begin work on July 1.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Administrators believe Yale did not violate Title IX, Miller says," yaledailynews.com, April 7, 2011, David Burt and Jordi Gasso
"At Yale, Sharper Look at Treatment of Women," NYTimes.com, April 7, 2011, Lisa W. Foderaro
"Yale to set up sexual misconduct committee following complaint," CNN.com, April 8, 2011, CNN Wire Staff