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Misbehavin’ in New Haven

News & Features | May 1, 2011

Posters plastered across Tufts’ campus bear the slogan: “Consent: It’s never too late to get it or take it away.” But at Yale this year, fraternity brothers wandered around chanting crudely, “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

When preventative measures against sexual harassment fail, how should a campus respond?

On Yale’s prestigious college campus, incidents of sexual harassment apparently occur on an annual basis. In 2008 some of Yale’s fraternity brothers took photos next to the Women’s Center, while holding a poster that said, “We Love Yale Sluts.” The next year, emails were sent out rating the “hotness” of Yale’s female freshmen, judged by the number of drinks male students would need to have sex with them. This academic year the “We Love Yale Sluts”  slogan turned into a raunchy chant, sung by fraternity pledges parading through Yale’s residential center.

An anonymous female student at Yale spoke about these chants. “They occurred right outside my dorm, near the Women’s Center,” she said. “I didn’t quite hear what they were saying, but I knew that it probably part of a fraternity’s initiation and that it was done to embarrass the pledges.”

There are students who feel as though the administration hasn’t appropriately responded to the misogynistic acts that have inflicted the Ivy League. To some, this incident speaks to a deeper culture of sexual harassment and abuse on campus, too often overlooked by the Yale administration.

Back in 2004, an independent watchdog organization called Security on Campus, Inc. accused Yale of underreporting instances of sexual assault and rape on campus. They found that officials reported less than half of the cases of rape and assault to federal officials, thus remaining below the Ivy League average.

Security on Campus was one of the first to criticize Yale’s handling of harassment cases. Their complaints reached the ears of the federal government, which this year decided to reduce the amount of endowment funds  granted to the university. Additionally, 16 current Yale students and alumni  brought a Title IX case to court,  calling attention to the Yale administration’s negligence.

Initially, the plaintiffs brought the Title IX case to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights,  claiming that Yale has created a “hostile environment” toward women.

Isabel Hirsch, a member of Tufts’ Voices for Change (VOX), reinforces the severity of these allegations and the need for proactive response.

“While VOX doesn’t specifically focus on sexual harassment, we do encourage and promote healthy sexual choices, which include safe sex practices and consent,” she said. “Because it can be so hard for people to come forward in cases of sexual harassment or assault, any allegations should be taken very seriously.”

Hirsch highlights the willingness of victims to bring their experiences to light.

 

 

“If so many people are coming forward, there have to be more cases in which the people have not come forward,” she continues. “I admire the students for taking the recent misogynist incidents at Yale as a jumping off point to create change at their university.”

Others, however, feel that the university is doing more than enough. The same Yale student says that a number of school officials sent out emails ensuring their concern of these instances of sexual harassment. She also stated, “This can occur anywhere. Not just Yale.”

Indeed, Yale is not alone in experiencing problems of sexual harassment. Statistics speak to often-overlooked trends of sexual mistreatment that blight the records of colleges nationwide.

According to a 2005 report by the National Institute of Justice, “just under 3 percent of all college women become victims of rape (either completed or attempted) in a given 9-month academic year.” When projected over a now typical 5-year college career, one in five young women experiences rape during college.

Sexual assault cases have been brought at many universities, including UVA, Duke, and Princeton.

In 1990, Congress passed the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act, stating that schools are obligated to report information about sexual crime on campus annually, and in 1992 passed an amendment called the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, stipulating that schools must develop prevention policies and provide certain assurances to victims.

But in light of the fact that sexual assault continues to affect large numbers of women on college campuses, and in light of the fact that Ivy-league universities turn a blind eye, the question remains: how can we change a college culture that accepts sexual assault? O