Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yale assesses campus climate

As part of a process of regular follow-up to complaints of a negative sexual climate and confusing sexual assault policies and procedures two years ago, Yale University has issued a campus climate report that shows some of the steps the university has taken since 2011 have been effective.
Most effective has been the streamlining of policies and procedures that address incidents (and their reporting) of sexual assault and harassment. Students who were surveyed reported that they felt confident they could access the system for reporting sexual assault and harassment. Many could name an office on campus that deals with these issues. In short, awareness is up. This is good--
--because what remains unclear is how much the climate has actually changed. So while mechanisms and personnel are in place and have been well-advertised, the need to actually use them may not have decreased. Climate is more difficult to measure, but something Yale--and every school--needs to pursue. What are the proactive measures Yale is taking to decrease incidents of sexual assault and harassment? Remembers, the resources and mechanisms Yale has put in place and/or streamlined should have already been there. That's the law. And it was a reaction to an OCR complaint filed by students which ended in a voluntary resolution agreement.
One of the ongoing issues is the lack of female faculty in some departments. Also, the unique needs of graduate students should be addressed. Grad students work closely with faculty members and rely on them for progressing in their degree program and for help in getting a job afterwards. In other words, there is large power imbalance and plenty of cases to suggest that grad students who complain about inappropriate relationships with or behavior from faculty members experience significant backlash.
Yale will continue to assess campus climate. I hope they will report on specific measures to curb sexual assault and harassment and how they are measuring climate.