Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What's happening at Yale?

The news over alleged and potential sexual assault and the sexual climate/culture at Yale does not seem to be dying down. We get notice of another article/editorial/blurb pretty much daily. We haven't done a great job covering the story, but here is something of an update.
The most recent high-profile issue has been the controversy over what Yale quarterback Patrick Witt did or did not do and when he did or did not do it. I am not going to re-hash the whole thing because it seems that no one really has the answers--in part because people/entities have chosen NOT to go looking for them and in part because some of the so-called answers are of questionable origins. The basics: Witt was accused of sexual assault by a female student. She opted for the informal complaint process in which there is no investigation and no formal disciplinary action apparently. The alleged benefit, according to Dean Mary Miller, "is a simpler route to resolution"--as reported in the Yale Daily News.
It also allows the complainant to remain anonymous. And that, I am guessing, was part of the appeal of this process for this female undergraduate. I imagine it would be very difficult to be the woman who accused the quarterback, who is also a potential Rhodes Scholar, of sexual assault. And the process has worked in that she has remained anonymous. But the article above notes that the majority of complaints filed are done so using the informal process.
Last week Yale released, in a greater effort at transparency, the first ever report on the number of sexual misconduct complaints on campus (it included those filed between July and December of last year). There were 52 complaints--42 of them were addressed using the informal process.
I think further inquiry into the campus climate needs to occur. Why is this the preferred process? Why is it seen as easier? Granted, being known as a potential victim and complainant is not enjoyable--but are the students at Yale more afraid of being outed than is usual?
Also at issue was the myriad of ways in which complaints were filed. Part of the concern when the initial complaint was filed with OCR in March 2011 by the group of current and former students was the lack of information students had about how and where to address alleged sexual misconduct. Information has been flowing and students are more aware of their options. But are there too many options? Very few complaints were filed with the campus police--which seems to be one of the most obvious places to go. Is this a comment on the Yale campus police? Or on the campus itself?
Most of the complaints were brought to Title IX coordinators. Yay that people know who the Title IX coordinators ARE on campus. But all these complaints are of an informal nature. This article outlines the benefits and drawbacks of an informal complaint system. I think it would be interesting to see how this theory specifically applies to Yale taking into consideration the comments on the campus climate.
And speaking of campus climate...
Another of the controversies at the New Haven campus has been the presence of Sex Week. It was cited as one of the events that contributed to a harmful sexual climate on campus. But President Levin has allowed the week-long event to take place this week because the organizers (who were not named in this brief article) noted an educational purpose for each activity/lecture. Included in the line-up are lawyer Ann Olivarius who was instrumental in sex discrimination and sexual harassment law in the 1970s. Also on the bill is Maggie Mayhem, who works in the porn industry as an actress.
This editorial by a student explains that this year's Sex Week has quite a different tone than last year's. It also provides some anecdotal evidence of the sexual culture at Yale, including his own experience as part of the freshman class a few years ago which was told by their college dean to get to know one another--biblically. He speaks rather thoughtfully about Yale culture and culture at large. It's worth a read and definitely provides more information than other news stories I have tried to find on this subject.
We are sure there is plenty more to come from Yale. The Witt situation still does not seemed resolved (apparently one of the drawbacks of the informal process!), OCR has not completed its investigation or issued findings, and Yale continues to search for ways to successfully meet the needs of its students on these issues.