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Yale Could Just Say No to Covering Up Rape

February 2, 2012, 12:10 pm

In 1976, Yale women rowers drew dramatic attention to sexism on campus.

What do top university administrators really talk about when they talk about rape with no one else in the room? Maybe someone will comment on this post and tell me. I’ve always wanted to know because every time I am in a meeting about sexual assault I get so much smoke blown up my posterior that I leave the room floating upside down.

My curiosity about this has been piqued even further because Yale University, my alma mater and the object of a Title IX investigation, recently released its stats on sex crimes for the last six months and has announced that it is sobered by the news. As the Oldest College Daily reports: “’The number and scope of complaints make it abundantly clear that there is more that we must do as a community and as individuals to prevent sexual misconduct and to ensure that Yale’s culture is optimally supportive and unfailingly respectful of all individuals,’” [Deputy Provost Stephanie] Spangler said in an email to the Yale community.”

Yes there is much they need to do, starting with issuing honest reports about what is really happening on campus and putting top administrators through a serious training about taking sexual assault seriously. The ever-sensitive President of Yale, Richard Levin, has noted only that releasing this report in the midst of a federal Title IX investigation “exceeded any legal mandate.”

You here that, wimmin?  They didn’t hafta do it, but they did and they did and they did — and we’re s’posed to thank them.

How many cases were brought forward at Yale in the last six months? Twenty-nine: you can access the report here.  Well, I am sobered too, because I have never seen a campus committee work so efficiently to cover up sex crimes on campus. Out of 5,000 students, that would make the rate of “sexual misconduct” — which includes a lot of noxious, sexist and violent behaviors that are not felony rape — at .0058.  This would put Yale so far below other estimates of the frequency of felony rape on college campuses that I would like to suggest they send they report to the Department of Justice with a laugh track. This report from the DOJ in December 2000 estimated that a campus should expect 350 rapes for every 10,000 women.  Roger Williams College goes with the conventional number, which is that one in four women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate.

OK, I’ll just say it:  Yale, I don’t believe you.

So let’s look at the report.  Out of the 29 cases that were heard by the disciplinary committee, which operates through voluntary reporting, fewer than half in the statical summary constitute any kind of sexual assault. Only nine that I can count were actual rapes, although there are several hearings that were held when a male came forward to say that he had overheard conversations about a rape, or gang rape, that was being planned. No action was taken on these because the truth of the allegation could not be sufficiently established.  No men reported having been raped, although several men reported having been the target of inappropriate behavior from women and men.  In fact, the vast number of cases heard by the committee involve sexual harassment of both sexes, predominantly by men, at least a third of which were perpetrated by faculty, administrators and teaching assistants.

You will also note in this report that many of the rape cases brought to the committee were found not to be substantial enough to pursue further because the victim was incapacitated at the time and could not provide a clear account of the alleged crime.  But get this:  in the cases that the committee did find that crimes had occurred, the accused student was not expelled.  In only one case was the student removed from campus — for a semester:

A Title IX Coordinator brought a formal complaint against a male Yale College student charging that he had committed acts of physical force, intimidation, and coercion against a female Yale College student, with whom he was having a relationship. The UWC found sufficient evidence to support the allegations. The respondent was given a one-semester suspension and restrictions were imposed on contact between the parties.

A one semester suspension?  Really? For assault, battery, stalking and forced sex? And if the woman was being terrorized, can we really call it a “relationship”? As Dan Savage says, it gets better.  In the cases in which straightforward man-on-woman forcible rape occurred, here is what happens at Yale:

A Yale College student sought resolution of an informal complaint alleging that a male Yale College student had nonconsensual sex with her. The Chair of the UWC held a meeting with the respondent and an administrator of the College, counseled the respondent on appropriate conduct, and imposed restrictions on contact between the parties.

“Counseled the respondent on appropriate conduct”? Compare this outcome with two cases in which male students complained of being verbally harassed by male Yale employees. In one case, the employee was fired; in the second, “A Yale College student reported that he was verbally harassed by a male staff member. The Title IX Coordinator substantiated the allegations. The respondent’s supervisor issued him a written disciplinary warning and required him to attend training on appropriate workplace conduct.”

But male students who rape female students don’t even go to a training, much less get permanently removed from campus. Or sent to jail, which — as a Yale alum — would be my preference.

What’s the big takeaway here?  Let’s go back to the DOJ, which has issued a set of guides for campus police.  Aquaintance Rape of College Students, by Rana Sampson of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, argues that removing rapists from the campus community is critical to any prevention effort, as is diverting stranger rape resources to acquaintance rape prevention.  She concludes:

The more that acquaintance rape remains a hidden crime, the less incentive that schools have to invest sufficiently in its prevention. Stranger rape results in dramatic and unwelcome publicity for colleges. Administrators try to prevent such victimization by putting cameras in parking garages, running late-night student escort and/or shuttle services, deploying student patrols, placing emergency telephones throughout campus, locking buildings to prevent strangers from entering, trimming obstructive foliage, and improving the lighting in dark or less-traveled areas. The costs of these prevention initiatives far exceed the dollars spent on acquaintance rape prevention, even though acquaintance rape is a much more likely occurrence. Increased reporting–even anonymous reporting–may push colleges to further invest in more effective acquaintance rape prevention.

One way to prevent rape would be to make it well known that people who do rape, with purposeful and malicious intent, will be expelled.  Permanently.  And by the way, President Levin?  If the DKE fraternity was truly banned after the “no means yes, yes means anal” pledge chant last spring that triggered the Title IX complaint, why does their house appear to be occupied? And why was it surrounded by a fresh crop of red party cups this morning when I left the gym?

I guess no means yes, yes means…….

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