Title IX Suit Filed Against Yale University For "Hostile Sexual Environment"

Today the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced it will open an investigation of Yale University "for its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX." The Yale Herald reports that earlier this month, 16 Yale students and alumni filed a complaint with OCR, citing several public scandals, including Delta Kappa Epsilon's rape chant, and private cases of sexual harassment and assault. Current student Hannah Zeavin, one of three complainants who have gone public, say the atmosphere on campus, "precludes women from having the same equal opportunity to the Yale education as their male counterparts."

The complaint includes personal accounts from five students, along with descriptions of these well-publicized incidents:

  • Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges chanting "No means yes! Yes means anal!" on campus in October 2010.
  • A September 2009 "Preseason Scouting Report" email, which was written and circulated by a group of male students. The email ranked 53 freshman women in the order of how many beers it would take to have sex with them.
  • Pledges from Zeta Psi surrounding the entrance to the Yale Women's Center in January 2008 with signs that said "We Love Yale Sluts."
  • Fraternity members stealing t-shirts inscribed with accounts of sexual assaults from the Clothesline Project in 2005.

In a recent report, Yale said it was taking sexual misconduct seriously and outlined plans for more educational programs and clinical services. However, the complainants say this response is inadequate. In a press release published by the Yale Daily News, they explain:

The response does not address the need for disciplinary measures, nor does it address the threatening and assaultive language used by the DKE brothers, thereby failing to adequately address the hostile environment on campus.

Title IX charges were brought against Yale in the landmark 1980 case Alexander v. Yale over sexual harassment by male professors. In response, the University created the Grievance Board for Student Complaints of Sexual Harassment, which is still in use today. Complainant Alexandra Brodsky says that the problem is the Board tends to handle cases of sexual harassment internally rather than informing students of their legal options. She explains:

"There's this idea that it should stay all within the family, that Mom and Dad will take care of it and quietly reconcile it. They treat cases like they're these tiny skirmishes between brothers and sisters at Yale ... I think a lot of people who report first through the University end up sucked into Yale's internal labyrinth of reporting mechanisms."

Hannah Zeavin accuses the University of failing to prosecute the perpetrators of sexual violence. From The Yale Herald:

"Yale deliberately shields those who commit sexual harassment and rape from both the public eye and from the consequences of their actions," says Zeavin, who is distressed by the continued presence on campus of those who have been accused of sexual assault. "You cannot imagine what it is like to sit in class with the person who raped your best friend."

The 16 students and alumni insist they aren't "out to get" Yale, but say they don't want future generations of Yale women to have to deal with a campus culture that permits discrimination. Their statement concludes, "After all the incidents of blatant sexual harassment and threatening behavior on Yale's campus, why must it take an investigation by OCR to convince Yale that there is a serious problem on campus?"

BREAKING NEWS: Yale Students File Title IX Suit Against The University [Yale Herald]
BREAKING: DOE's Office For Civil Rights To Investigate Yale For "Hostile Sexual Environment" [Yale Daily News]

Earlier: Frat's Misogynistic Chants Spurs Yale To Address Sexual Misconduct