What do you get a law that has everything? Well, last week, just in time for Title IX’s 40th birthday (this Saturday, June 23), the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Yale University decided to go the I-put-a-lot-of-time-into-this-present-because-I-really-care-about-you route: OCR and Yale entered into a resolution agreement to settle a complaint alleging that Yale failed to eliminate sex discrimination on campus in violation of Title IX. Happy birthday, Title IX!
The agreement resolves a March 2011 complaint by a group of 16 current and former Yale students alleging that a sexually hostile environment existed on campus. The complaint pointed to an October 2010 incident in which members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” and other charming bon mots in front of the Yale Women’s Center.
This episode, the complaint claimed, was an example of an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment, to which the university failed to promptly or fairly respond. (No students involved received discipline.) In addition, the complaint alleged that Yale didn’t have a Title IX coordinator, as required by the law, and had an inadequate grievance process for addressing sex discrimination complaints.
For the past year and some-odd months, OCR has been investigating the complaint’s allegations, and Yale, on its part, has been implementing a number of policy and practice changes to improve its response to sexual harassment and assault complaints.
Under the voluntary resolution agreement the university agreed to a number of changes to ensure “that it has an environment and culture in which all students feel safe and well supported.” Yale has appointed a Title IX coordinator, and formed a new University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct that will respond to both formal and informal complaints, but given Yale’s alleged practice of encouraging women to file informal complaints, one complainant described the presence of informal reporting in the new scheme as “worrisome.”
Yale has also agreed to ensure that the university community received notice of the available procedures, conduct periodic assessments of campus climate, and “improve observance of appropriate behavioral norms by campus organizations,” which means, I guess, making sure the frat boys shape up. Yale has to report to OCR on its implementation of the agreement, and OCR will monitor the university through May of 2014.
It’s nice of OCR and Yale to give Title IX this resolution agreement for its birthday (40 is the new 30, girl!). But the real present will be if the culture at Yale undergoes real and permanent change.