After a series of offensive and sexually charged incidents on the campus of Yale University, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it was launching an investigation into the failures by the University to adequately eliminate the hostile sexual environment on campus.
The notice came after 16 students and alumni contacted the DOE and alleged the University’s failure was a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a landmark piece of legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools.
The complaint alleges that Yale inadequately responded to a series of events on campus, with the most recent and egregious event occurring in October of 2010. That is when a group of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledges surrounded by brothers of the same fraternity loudly chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” outside Old Campus, the area on Yale’s campus where a majority of freshman women live.
Other instances of sexual harassment at the school include the September 2009 “Preseason scouting report” email where a group of male Yale students widely circulated a list of fifty-three freshman women, ranking them in order of how many beers it would take to have sex with them.
In addition to these very public events the complaint mentions the University’s failure to address several instances of private sexual harassment and assault.
No doubt there will be a certain part of the population that will try and dismiss the majority of these claims as an over-reaction to “harmless” and “typical” college-age behavior, spinning the response into a variation of “boys will be boys.”
But Title IX is clear that school officials have a duty to run a campus free from such offensive conduct. What is most troubling, and what the complaint addresses, is that the behavior that fueled the complaint is only escalating–due in large part to the perception that it is either not a problem or that University officials won’t step in to put a stop to it.
That’s a perception that is toxic. Just like a sexually hostile work environment affects all employees, a sexually hostile educational environment affects all students and teachers and stands in the way of the principle job of a university, to facilitate learning.
So far neither Yale University officials nor the DOE have commented on the investigation.
photo courtesy of Marc_Smith via Flickr