03:30am Monday 17 February 2020

Yale taking steps to strengthen and streamline response to sexual misconduct

In an email to the campus community on Nov. 10, the President discussed the report by the advisory committee he appointed in April 2011 to assess the current campus climate on sexual misconduct (including harassment and assault) and make recommendations to remedy the situation. This committee was appointed after the Office of Civil Right’s announcement of an investigation of potential Title IX violations at Yale.

The committee — chaired by Margaret Marshall ’76 J.D., former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a Yale trustee from 2004 to 2010 — interviewed more than 150 Yale students, alumni, and administrators over the past five months. The other members of the committee, which presented its report to the Yale Corporation in October 2011, were Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83, ’86 J.D., vice president for campus life and dean of students at the University of Chicago; Libby Smiley ’02, former president of the Yale College Council; and Seth Waxman ’77 J.D., former solicitor general of the United States.

The committee made several key points, noted Levin.

• It calls on Yale’s officers and deans to exert their leadership to ensure that Yale’s culture “as we live it” matches our community’s aspirations. “Sexual misconduct should not be tolerated, and we must implement strengthened processes for addressing allegations of wrongdoing,” wrote the President.

• It recommends that services for students who believe they have been subjected to sexual misconduct and who seek advice about how to pursue possible complaints be clearly described, and that the pathways for redress be clearly delineated. “We need to eliminate confusion created by the variety of resources and procedures that have been available,” said Levin.

• It endorses streamlining the means of addressing complaints of sexual misconduct through the establishment of a University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC).

• It recommends that the University broadly and more effectively communicate to all students the resources, policies, and procedures available at Yale to address instances of sexual misconduct. 

• It calls upon Yale’s leaders to take early action to condemn offensive speech when it occurs, while preserving Yale’s fundamental commitment to free expression.

 Recommended actions being taken

 Yale has already implemented one of these recommendations, noted Levin: Since July 2011, the University-wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC), has been operational, convening cases of informal and formal complaints.

Other measures Yale will take in response to the recommendations include:

• University leaders — including the deans of Yale College, graduate and professional schools, and the provost — will communicate that sexual misconduct has no place a Yale in a coordinated and aligned manner.

• The Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center (SHARE) will be positioned as the main resource for undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students who either are coping with sexual misconduct or helping a friend do so. SHARE provides a full range of information, advocacy, and support services, including assisting in the process of filing a disciplinary or criminal complaint. Given its raised profile, the SHARE Center will be provided with additional staff and a new telephone number 203-432-2000; the existing phone number will still work.

• The Title IX Coordinators will continue to serve students, faculty, and staff on matters related to sexual discrimination and misconduct. A senior administrator will be appointed with the responsibility of overseeing the University’s compliance with Title IX.

• The Sexual Misconduct Response website has been created to help everyone understand the avenues available for responding to specific incidents.

• Yale College will facilitate undergraduate training on sexual assault prevention for leaders of student organizations; the Office of the Provost will facilitate training for graduate and professional school student organizations; and the Yale College Communication and Consent Educators will provide peer leadership in preventing sexual misconduct and fostering a more positive sexual climate.

• The student leadership council model will be used to increase awareness in areas such as fraternities and sororities. 

“Yale strives for excellence in all its endeavors,” wrote Levin in his email. “It is not enough to provide an outstanding experience to some or even most of our students.  Every student deserves to feel safe, well supported, and protected from harassment and the pernicious effects of sexual misconduct.”

The President also noted: “The focus of the committee’s report and my response is on student life.  But no one should be subjected to sexual misconduct — whether staff, faculty, or student — and, should improper conduct occur, our response must be equally strong and effective for all.

Read the full text of President Levin’s email to the community on the new Sexual Misconduct Response website.

Learn more about resources for victims of sexual misconduct and their friends at the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center (SHARE) website.

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