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Yale settles sexual harassment complaint

Posted at 3:25 AM, Jun 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-15 22:27:26-04

By David Ariosto and Leigh Remizowski, CNN

(CNN) – The U.S. Department of Education reached a settlement with Yale University on Friday, acknowledging the school “largely under-reported” allegations of sexual harassment, but has since made changes to its policies to resolve accusations it allowed a “sexually hostile environment” on campus.

Russlynn Ali, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said the school’s process for reporting sexual harassment had been “confusing to students” and “that records of their complaints and their outcomes were not adequately kept.”

The federal investigation was spawned in 2011 by a 26-page complaint filed by 16 students following a controversial video released online that showed fraternity recruits yelling chants encouraging rape as they marched through campus. The complaint also followed reports of a party in which undergraduate students were allegedly asked to strip naked.

Yale students were “not made aware of the resources available to victims of sexual harassment and violence,” said Ali, whose investigation “revealed allegations of sexual harassment beyond what was included in the (2011) complaint.”

Under the agreement, the university will not face disciplinary action with the understanding that it keeps in place policy changes instituted after the complaint was filed. The school must report on its progress to the Office of Civil Rights until May 2014.

Yale has agreed to address the “immediate concerns and put systems in place to help prevent future Title IX discrimination,” Ali said, referring to the federal gender-equity law.

The university “fully cooperated” with the investigation and didn’t wait until its completion to initiate policy changes, she added. Those measures include increased training and staff dedicated to responding to and preventing sexual harassment and violence.

The university said in a statement Friday that it was “pleased … with the terms of our voluntary agreement.”

“Yale has sought to engage the entire community to combat sexual misconduct in a transparent, consistent, and comprehensive manner,” the statement said. “Prior to the filing of the Title IX complaint, the university had begun implementing its University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct … to address complaints of sexual misconduct.”

The New Haven, Connecticut-based school is not the only university recently investigated by the federal government over its policies regarding sexual harassment and violence.

Last year, the Department of Education reached a similar settlement with Notre Dame University after investigating “student-on-student sexual harassment” which included sexual violence.

A student at nearby St. Mary’s College “committed suicide after reporting that she was sexually assaulted by another student,” according to the department’s release.

Between 2008 and 2011, the department’s Office for Civil Rights reported a 78% increase in sexual harassment complaints.