The XX Factor

A “Hostile Sexual Environment” at Yale?

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced on Thursday that it would be investigating Yale University in response to a Title IX complaint by students and alumni. The complaint, which was filed by 12 women and four men who are current students and alumni of the university, cites recent public and private events where Yale’s sexual assault and harassment policies have led to the creation of a hostile sexual environment. This environment limits “women’s equal access to educational opportunities,” the complaint argues. The 16 signatories have been discussing the possibility of filing a complaint since December of 2010, but Yale’s lack of response to an incident in which men from the DKE fraternity chanted: “No means yes! Yes means anal!” outside of freshman dorms set the wheels in motion.

The complaint cites five other events, including the ” preseason scouting report “: A widely distributed email that rated women based on attractiveness sent out in 2009. In 2008, members of the Zeta Psi fraternity posted photos on Facebook of themselves holding a banner that said “We love Yale sluts” in front of the Yale Women’s Center. In 2007, over 150 students at the medical school signed a letter to the administration, requesting that it investigate the school’s sexual assault and harassment policy. The Title IX complaint is also in reference to students’ private interactions with Yale after issues of sexual harassment, assault, stalking, or crimes in which a sexual assault also occurred.

One of the complainants, junior Alexandra Brodsky, said: “I can’t tell you how excited I was to get into Yale. It’s been really disappointing that after 40 years of coeducation, women still have to deal with these sorts of barriers every day.” In just the few hours since the story broke, she says she has already received an email from a former student who was a victim of sexual assault while at Yale thanking her for filing this complaint.

In the next month, the OCR will be sending a fact-finding team to the university to interview students about their personal experiences with sexual assault at Yale. According to a lawyer who counseled the complainants, just one of the incidents included in the report- a private incident in which Yale responded inappropriately to a student who brought a claim of sexual assault to the university’s sexual grievance board-would be considered a violation of Title IX.