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We have written an addendum to our open letter, which can be found on our updates page, or at the bottom of this web page.
To: President Peter Salovey
CC: Melanie Boyd; Stephanie Spangler; Michael Della Rocca; Thomas Hibino
Dear President Salovey,
As Yale students, we are deeply concerned about the school’s handling of sexual violence, particularly in light of the most recent Semi-Annual Report. Through conversation and research, we have determined four essential policy changes to create a safer, more egalitarian campus. Please find our list of demands below. We invite you to meet with us in person to discuss these measures further.
1. Yale must establish an explicit preferred sanction of expulsion for those found culpable of sexual violence. By allowing offending students to remain at Yale, the administration deprives survivors of justice and puts other students at risk of victimization. Lenient disciplinary action also sends a clear message to the student body trivializing sexual violence, encouraging future violations. Inspired by Duke’s recent policy change, we feel strongly that expulsion should be the standard punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence — including but not limited to rape — and that the UWC should not place the burden of determining the punishment on the survivor. However, we oppose a mandatory expulsion policy that would potentially discourage reporting and deprive survivors who do report of the ability to influence the disciplinary process. If, based on survivors’ desires, an assailant is suspended rather than expelled, the sanctioned student should be removed from campus immediately, but, if the disciplinary decision is made after the first month of classes, the remainder of the semester should not count toward his or her completion of the suspension length (i.e. the term of suspension should be measured starting the following semester). Additionally, offenders should not be allowed to enroll in any courses before the completion of the suspension, even if the survivor is away from campus.
2. Yale must provide to survivors the services of an external victim’s advocate. The school disciplinary process is opaque and unfriendly to survivors, as documented by students and determined by the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Yale should contract with a trained victim’s advocate to guide survivors through the process. This advocate must be employed by a local organization (such as a rape crisis center or victim’s rights organization) so that his or her continued livelihood does not depend on responding to the administration’s interest and requests, which may be counter to the needs of the survivor.
3. Yale must include student-survivors on all committees determining policy, programming, and administrative statements on sexual violence. Faculty and administrators lack the insight and expertise unique to those most intimately affected by the school’s approach to sexual violence. Student-survivors must be included — and their voices centralized — in all relevant task forces, committees, etc. starting with the current effort to determine standard disciplinary consequences for different forms of violence.
4. Yale must initiate a disciplinary hearing against students reported to the school for sexual violence more than once, whether or not the reports were filed formally. According to research from Dr. David Lisak, the average college rapist offends six times, and 90% of campus assaults are perpetrated by repeat assailants. The continued presence of such offenders on campus, then, poses an unconscionable risk to the student body. If the university has reason to suspect that a student is a repeat offender based on either informal or formal reports, it must initiate a formal investigative hearing.
Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale
Alexandra Brodsky, DC ‘12 LAW ‘16
Julia Calagiovanni, SM ‘15
Hannah Constantin, ES ‘15
Carol Crouch, JE ‘14
Emma Goldberg, SY ‘16
Sergio Lopez, BK ‘17
Matthew Mattia, BR ‘17
Hannah Mogul-Adlin, TC ’13, YSPH ’14
Isabel Ortiz, JE ’14
Shyamala Ramakrishna, DC ‘17
Diana Rosen, PC ’16
Hannah Slater, BK ‘13 YSPH ‘14
Winnie Wang, BR ’15
Rachel Yalowitz, BK ’17
Jin Ai Yap, MC ‘16
If you have read the letter and would like to add your signature, please do so below. At present, we ask that only people connected to the Yale community — students, alumni, faculty, staff, and parents — sign the letter, as we believe this will make a stronger statement to the university. If you are not a member of the Yale community but would like to support this work, please share this link with others or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further suggested actions.
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Addendum to SASVY’s open letter:
We are glad to see that our letter has already begun to generate conversation in the Yale community. We would like to address some questions that have been raised and clarify our proposals and positions in order to inform these ongoing conversations.
SASVY fully supports the personal decisions of survivors. We recognize and respect that there are many reasons a survivor may wish to seek a lesser penalty than expulsion in a formal disciplinary hearing, to make an informal complaint without a disciplinary hearing, or to not make a report. The goal of our first proposal is for Yale’s formal complaint system to be more just, open, and responsive to the needs of survivors who do pursue disciplinary action, and we oppose pressure or judgement on survivors who choose otherwise.
Likewise, the goal of our fourth proposal is for Yale to have a clear mechanism for keeping track of repeat offenders and initiating investigations, and we support the choice of survivors to participate or not participate in those investigations.
SASVY calls on Yale to solicit student-survivor input on a purely voluntary basis and in a way that prioritizes and protects privacy. Student survivors who wish to participate — on a committee level or otherwise — in the process of creating policy and providing feedback on current policy should not be pressured or required to reveal their identities to the Yale community, the general public, or any administrators beyond the scope of the individual committee with which they are involved. We recommend the creation of fully anonymous pathways for student-survivors who do not wish to reveal their identities to voice their opinions, suggestions, and feedback.
SASVY recognizes and supports the important work of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource & Education (SHARE) Center. Our proposal to contract with an external victim’s advocate is intended to provide an additional, complementary resource to survivors. We call for a system in which survivors have access to advocacy and support that is independent from Yale in addition to the crucial institutional support resources that already exist.
We welcome further questions and feedback about our proposals.