Yale aligns procedures for addressing sexual misconduct with new U.S. rules

(Photo credit: Dan Renzetti)

(Photo credit: Dan Renzetti)

To comply with new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Yale has updated its  procedures for addressing sexual misconduct. The new regulations, which take effect Aug. 14, primarily pertain to formal disciplinary processes.

None of the updates alter Yale’s standard for affirmative consent, the types of behavior considered sexual misconduct under university policy, the remedies and support available to those impacted by sexual misconduct, the applicable standard of proof in formal processes, or the penalties that Yale can impose on a person found responsible for sexual misconduct.

" We remain committed to our community-centered approach not only in optimizing the fairness and effectiveness of Yale’s sexual misconduct procedures but also in striving to prevent the occurrence of behavior that harms our colleagues and students and is antithetical to the mission of our university," President Peter Salovey, Provost Scott Strobel, and Yale Title IX Coordinator Dr. Stephanie Spangler  wrote in a joint email  to the Yale community.

In the following Q&A, Spangler, who also is vice provost for health affairs and academic integrity, and Mark Solomon, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and chair of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC), provide information about key elements of what has changed, what has not, and what the Yale community can expect going forward.

What remains the same about Yale’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures?

Yale continues to prioritize the prevention of sexual misconduct through education and awareness programming and is fully committed to a fair, thorough, and effective response when it happens. Our policies, educational initiatives, and programs have been carefully designed, and we brought the same level of care to the task of aligning them with new federal mandates. In fact, the core of Yale’s sexual misconduct policies will not change: Yale’s standard for affirmative consent is the same, and conduct that has been prohibited remains prohibited. UWC will continue to address formal complaints of sexual misconduct through impartial investigations and hearing panels including members of the Yale community. SHARE center counselors, Title IX coordinators, and the Yale Police will continue to support everyone in our community. And the Title IX coordinators will continue to offer advice, accommodations, and other supportive measures to all parties. 

What are some of the most notable changes?

The changes are primarily focused on matters of procedure, or the specific steps that must be followed in the formal process for hearing complaints of sexual misconduct. 

The federal government’s new regulations apply to a narrower range of behaviors than Yale’s sexual misconduct policy, and the regulations do not cover behavior that occurs in certain locations, such as off-campus residences and during study abroad programs. Yale’s policies will continue to apply to a broad range of behaviors on and off campus.

Regarding what changes: The new regulations require that a professional hearing officer with legal training presides over hearings and sits on the UWC panel for formal hearings. In cases subject to the government’s regulations, each party’s advisor will have an opportunity to question the other party and witnesses. The questioning may happen remotely, and the hearing officer will ensure that all questions are relevant and decorum is maintained. In all formal complaints, the hearing panel will decide responsibility, instead of the deans or the provost, who previously issued decisions in the formal process.  

For the full UWC procedures, please visit the  committee’s website.

In addition to the formal process, will there be new ways of resolving complaints?

Yes, there will be. The new regulations permit Yale to offer alternative resolution processes previously not allowed. These options may include restorative justice approaches and, where appropriate, mediated resolutions, and will give complainants greater choice in how they wish their complaints to be addressed. These options will only be initiated upon the agreement of both parties and, as with the formal hearing process, Yale will never require a complainant to participate in a process they do not wish to pursue.  

Where can people concerned about sexual misconduct find additional resources?

Yale’s  sexual misconduct response and prevention website  details policies, how to seek help and support, and how to report an incident.  

People at Yale who have experienced or been accused of sexual misconduct can receive support and learn about the formal and alternative processes for addressing it from the  SHARE Center , a  Title IX coordinator , the  UWC , and the  Yale Police Department. The UWC has additional  information for complainants and respondents  and a  pool of trained advisors  who can assist parties through the formal investigation and hearing process.

We hope that anyone in the Yale community who has concerns about their experience or that of a friend or loved one will use our resources.  Additionally, we look forward to the ongoing active engagement of the community that is so critical to creating the programs and taking the actions that will help us to eliminate sexual misconduct at Yale.

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