In March 2011, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights received a complaint alleging that a sexually hostile environment existed at Yale University, and the University had not responded in a prompt and adequate manner. The complaint was filed, in part, as a result of a well-publicized incident in October 2010 when fraternity pledges chanted sexually aggressive comments outside the University's Women's Center located on Old Campus, where most freshman students live.
OCR assessed whether the University had prompt and equitable grievance procedures to address complaints under Title IX, and whether the University had allowed a sexually hostile environment to be created on campus by not sufficiently responding to notice of sexual harassment. It found that there were significant problems. In particular, OCR found that the Title IX Coordinator for the University was unknown to students and employees, that the Coordinator was unclear on her role and responsibilities, that she had historically only dealt with employee sexual harassment, and had no connection to other aspects of the Title IX implementation on campus, including any mechanism for tracking sexual harassment complaints.
OCR also found both the informal and formal methods of reporting grievances to be confusing and unhelpful. OCR found that the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, an informal method of reporting grievances, was a group of staff and students that generally relied on voluntary perpetrator participation for remedies and kept no reliable records on the grievances received. OCR found that ExComm, the formal method, focused on the alleged perpetrator and his/her rights and not on affording the complainant a prompt and equitable resolution of his/her complaint. The fact-finder in these investigations was a faculty member, and cases were suspended if there was an ongoing criminal investigation. If a violation was found, ExComm focused on disciplining the perpetrator and not on providing remedies to the complainant.
In July 2011, the University acknowledged flaws in this ExComm system and adopted in its place the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC). The UWC provides both formal and informal ways to resolve grievances. The formal grievance includes impartial fact-finders, clearly designated timeframe, and the ability of the Title IX Coordinator to prosecute complaints even if the complainant does not wish to participate. Through the informal process, complainants can receive information, advice, interim protection and counseling support.
The OCR investigation also addressed the October 2010 incident involving fraternities chanting sexually aggressive comments at the University's Women's Center. OCR found fraternities had staged similar events around the same time of year and in the same location with some regularity in the past. After the investigation was initiated, ExComm issued a decision on May 2, 2011 finding that the the fraternity, "as an organization, had threatened and intimidated others," and prohibiting the organization from conducting activities on campus for the next five years.
On June 15, 2012, OCR resolved the Title IX complaint through a voluntary resolution agreement. The University agreed to implement a new Title IX Coordinator structure, including appointing a new head Coordinator for the University. The Coordinators will receive extensive training on sex discrimination and the newly implemented grievance procedures. OCR determined that the new UWC process adopted in place of the ExComm system it criticized met Title IX requirements. The resolution agreement provided for monitor of its implementation.
The University agreed to appoint a Vice President for Student Life and create a working group of regular meetings to discuss Title IX compliance in regards to social life on campus. The University also agreed to revamped its training for staff, administrators, faculty and students. Lastly, the University agreed to no longer permit Fall fraternity rush for freshman students.
OCR will close the monitoring of Yale University when OCR determines that the University has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with the regulation implementing Title IX. Kathryn DeLong - 11/02/2015