Light & Verity

Federal government ends Title IX investigation

Yale signs "voluntary resolution agreement."

Fifteen months after 16 Yale students and recent alumni filed a federal complaint alleging that the university discriminates against women in violation of the 1972 law known as Title IX, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on June 15 that Yale had entered into a “voluntary resolution agreement” to end the investigation. Although the agreement states that “OCR has not made a finding of noncompliance,” the six-page document commits Yale to a number of steps “to assure that it has an environment and culture in which all students feel safe and well supported.”

Many of those steps have already been taken. After learning of the complaint—which maintained that the university’s policies toward sexual misconduct were confusing and inadequate and helped to create a “hostile environment” for women, depriving them of equal educational opportunity—Yale stepped up its efforts to address these issues. In addition to outlining the remedial moves the university has already made, the agreement requires Yale to conduct assessments of the campus sexual climate at least annually and to send reports on its progress to OCR on three specific dates until May 2014.

“The substance of the agreement reflects, in large part, the improvements and initiatives we have been advancing over the past two years through the efforts of faculty, students, and administrators across the campus,” wrote deputy provost Stephanie Spangler, who was appointed Title IX coordinator for the university last fall, in a statement.

As OCR regional director Thomas Hibino explained in a letter to the university, the investigation focused on three questions: did Yale appoint someone to ensure compliance with Title IX and adequately inform the campus community? Do students and staff have access to comprehensive grievance procedures? And did the university allow a “sexually hostile environment to be created on campus” by not preventing or responding adequately to incidents of misogynistic behavior on campus?

In answering each of the questions, investigators found fault with the university’s approach in the past, but in each case Hibino cited steps the university has taken since the complaint was filed: restructuring its Title IX coordinating system and widely publicizing it on campus, implementing a University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct as a central clearinghouse for dealing with sexual misconduct allegations, creating an Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, appointing a university vice president for student life, and increasing education for students, faculty, staff, and administrators about sexual misconduct, alcohol, and hazing.

Alex Brodsky ’12, one of the complainants, expresses qualified approval of the resolution. “Our goal was, quite simply, to make Yale a safer place where both men and women can participate equally in all the school has to offer,” says Brodsky. “I think Yale is on its way, but that there’s still much more work to be done.”  


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