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In January 2001, Debra Gibbs, then a sophomore in Davenport College, received a troubling e-mail from her science tutor, a graduate student. “I wish you had an exam every week,” the man wrote. “You were looking great in your study outfit last night.” (Debra Gibbs is a pseudonym. The student’s real name appeared in the print version of this article, but we have changed it and a few identifying details online.)
This sudden turn in a teaching relationship made it difficult for Gibbs to focus on learning the subject. “It felt like this big distraction, like I couldn’t just be like the other students,” she says. “It made me much more aware of being female.” Gibbs stopped going to the tutor’s office hours. She was afraid to confront him, because he was part of a team of teaching assistants responsible for grading her tests.
“I was worried about backlash,” she says. “Also, I wouldn’t have necessarily felt comfortable going to lectures if I knew he was going to be there and if he was angry with me.”
As sexual harassment goes, the incident was mild. Gibbs doesn’t know of any other complaints against the tutor. But the e-mail was particularly upsetting for her because of a far worse experience she’d had only a week earlier.
Gibbs had gone out for Japanese food on a Thursday night with an undergraduate she’d just begun dating. Afterward, she went back to his room. At the end of the evening, he asked if she wanted him to walk her back to Davenport. She told him she’d be fine on her own. They said good night.
As Gibbs began walking down the hallway, a junior who lived next door came out of his room and said hello. Gibbs knew the junior; he was a close friend of the student she’d just gone out with. She went into his room to talk. Then things started going wrong. The junior pushed Gibbs down onto his bed and put his hands up her skirt. She tried to push his hands away, said no, and tried to talk him out of it. “‘Stop. Don’t do this,’” Gibbs remembers saying. “‘If you respected me, you’d respect my decision.’” But the junior persisted. “‘Just five minutes. Please. Shh,’” he said. He kneeled on top of her, pinning her down, and pulled down his pants. “Then he masturbated and came on my jacket, because I was still wearing my clothes,” Gibbs says, her voice low. “I barely looked down because I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Gibbs didn’t cry out because she didn’t want the student she was dating to hear her. “I didn’t want him to see me in this compromised position,” she says. “I was thinking about everyone else’s feelings. And the boy was saying ’Don’t tell, don’t tell,’ because it would ruin their friendship.”
The junior who had just assaulted her insisted on walking Gibbs home, and she was too frightened to resist. “I wanted to get away from him, but I didn’t know how without making a huge scene,” she says. Finally, she left him on the street and made it back to her room.
Sexual harassment and assault are among the most vexing and intractable problems on any campus. Universities are by nature instant societies made up mostly of thousands of young adults, the majority of whom are on their own for the first time. They are places where sex is often talked about, less often had. Yale has its share of sexual frankness—the naked parties thrown by the Pundits, a prank-playing student group; the Last Chance Dance, billed as a final opportunity for graduating seniors to hook up with the partner they’ve long desired; and Sex Week, a prelude to Valentine’s Day which this year included a panel featuring a porn star. At the same time, many undergraduates don’t come to Yale sexually sophisticated or experienced. And the nature of a university means that they’re on the lower end of a series of power relationships—with teaching assistants, professors, administrators, and older or dominating students. At their best, those relationships make Yale a thriving intellectual and social community. But when they go awry sexually, they can leave students like Gibbs feeling wounded and exposed. The challenge for Yale, as for any university, is to discourage harassment and assault and punish transgressors, without jettisoning the rights of the accused.
There’s no way to accurately compare the prevalence of harassment and assault at Yale to the levels on other campuses. But Yale is part of a national campus scene in which both kinds of misconduct occur regularly. A December 2000 report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that about 3 percent of college women experienced a rape or an attempted rape during the 1996–1997 academic year. At universities with 10,000 or more students, the report estimated, more than 350 rapes may occur each year. According to a September 2000 article in the Journal of Higher Education, most studies have found that between 20 percent and 40 percent of undergraduate and graduate women experience some form of sexual harassment, from offensive comments to sex-for-grades bribery to assault.
Most of these incidents go unreported. But some come to light. The dean of the law school at the University of California–Berkeley resigned in 2002 to preclude an investigation into his harassment of a female student. The University of Colorado–Boulder, still reeling over charges that football players and recruits have raped several women, recently fired a tenured engineering professor who had been accused of repeated incidents of harassment dating back 20 years. A few students have won jury awards for harassment claims—$3 million in a case against Iowa State University last year, $250,000 from the University of Michigan in 2002, and $120,000 in a case last year at West Chester University.
Yale has at times been a focal point of efforts to adjudicate—and counteract—harassment and assault at universities and other workplaces. Catharine MacKinnon ’77JD, ’87PhD, was a Yale law student when she wrote Sexual Harassment of Working Women, the 1979 book that laid out the doctrinal theory for sexual harassment law later adopted by courts. It was the 1979 lawsuit Alexander v. Yale that led to the ruling that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination under Title IX (the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in universities receiving federal funds). Brought against the university on behalf of five Yale women—including one who said that a faculty member had offered her an A in his course in exchange for sex—the suit put pressure on Yale to adopt a grievance procedure for adjudicating student complaints of sexual harassment.
In 1998 Yale also became one of the first institutions of higher education to put in place a policy barring sexual relationships, consensual or not, between teachers and any students under their direct supervision. “The unequal institutional power inherent in [the teacher-student] relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for coercion,” states the faculty handbook. “The pedagogical relationship between teacher and student must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning consistent with the goals and ideals of the University.”
The rule, which was voted in by the faculty, underscores Yale’s commitment to protecting students from discomfort and harm, university officials say. “We want to make sure that this is a university where students have a sense of personal security and support, in the fullest sense of the word, without any kind of unwanted sexual attention,” says Vice President and Secretary Linda Koch Lorimer ’77JD. (Lorimer is a board member of the nonprofit that publishes this magazine.) In February, Provost Susan Hockfield wrote in the Yale Daily News that “sexual harassment is an affront to human dignity and fundamentally at odds with the values of the university.”
The right laws, policies, and practices can help victims seek relief, recover, and move forward in their lives. Effective procedures assure students that the institution they look to for their education recognizes and condemns sexual trespass. They also create disincentives for potential perpetrators. “Sexual harassment is not inevitable, even in societies of sex inequality,” says MacKinnon. “Perpetrators have a choice about doing it. Presumably knowing it won’t just be dismissed with a wink and a nod, that the consequences can be serious and real, can affect whether they do or not.”
Today, Yale has several different policies and grievance bodies for addressing sexual harassment and assault. Staff members follow grievance procedures established by the human resources department or, if they are union members, by Yale’s labor agreements. Faculty can complain to the dean of their school, the provost’s office, or a university Title IX coordinator. For students, the graduate and professional schools and Yale College all have grievance boards that hear both informal and formal complaints. Informal complaints allow students to seek resolution without formal investigations and to remain anonymous if they choose. No disciplinary action is taken against the accuser. Formal complaints involve written evidence and a hearing, and complainants must identify themselves to those they accuse. A guilty finding can result in a sanction ranging from a reprimand to the suspension of a student or the firing of a faculty member.
In the moments of intense distress and humiliation right after she was assaulted, Debra Gibbs didn’t know where to turn. There is a 24-hour rape crisis hotline in New Haven, but she didn’t know about it, and Yale didn’t have a rape crisis hotline of its own. When she got back to her dorm, she rushed to the bathroom to wash the junior’s semen off her jacket—something a rape crisis counselor would have cautioned against. Gibbs wishes now that she’d gotten that advice. “I regret not having had that piece of evidence,” she says, her eyes brimming over, “but at the time, I just wanted to erase what had happened to me.”
Gibbs spent the frantic early-morning hours after the assault talking to her roommate, and later to another suitemate. At about midday on Friday, the roommate took her to University Health Services, where she got counseling. That night, the junior called. Gibbs hung up on him. He sent her an e-mail later that night. “I don’t know what your deal is with being so upset,” the message read. “I’ve done no harm to you.” Gibbs decided she needed to do something to make the junior stop contacting her. “I kept thinking, ‘What do I do?’” she says.
The Davenport College dean, Peter Quimby, was not someone she knew well. But her suitemate vouched for Quimby and urged her to talk to him. When Gibbs went to his office early on Saturday, Quimby was comforting and supportive. He told her that what had happened was a serious matter, and he suggested that the two of them meet on Monday morning with Betty Trachtenberg, the Yale College dean of student affairs.
At that meeting, Trachtenberg also offered her sympathy and support. She gave Gibbs several choices about next steps. Gibbs could go to the police in hopes that criminal charges would be pressed against the junior. She could bring a formal complaint against him before the Executive Committee of Yale College. The committee, known as ExComm, is a panel of ten administrators, professors, and students, which can punish undergraduates it finds guilty of violating college rules. Or Gibbs could bring an informal complaint before the college’s Sexual Harassment Grievance Board. If Gibbs chose the third route, a team of board members would try to mediate a resolution, either by talking to the junior or by helping Gibbs do so. The junior would not be disciplined, however, because the grievance board doesn’t have the authority to punish students. (The grievance board handles formal complaints only when they are brought against faculty members.)
Quimby and Trachtenberg emphasized that the choice about how to proceed was Gibbs’s. “The main message I got from them was that they wanted to give me control,” Gibbs says. “The quote I remember from Dean Trachtenberg is ‘The university is behind you, whatever you choose to do.’”
Gibbs’s parents urged her to consider going to the police. But involving law enforcement seemed to her like “just too much.” Gibbs was a varsity athlete and carrying a pre-med course load. She was having trouble sleeping and focusing on her studies, and she worried that her semester would be overwhelmed by the effort of building a criminal case or bringing a formal complaint. “I felt like the more he disrupted my life, the more he’d succeeded in hurting me,” Gibbs says. What mattered most to her was making sure that the junior stayed away from her. She decided to bring an informal complaint before the grievance board.
The sexual harassment grievance board has between seven and nine members: two faculty, two administrators, two to four undergraduates, and one person with counseling experience. It has two veteran mainstays. Trachtenberg has served for a decade. A former music school director who has worked with emotionally disturbed children, she has a reputation on campus for being tough-minded and blunt. But many students who get to know her (as I did when I was a coordinator at the student-run Yale Women’s Center) discover that she is also a warm-hearted and tireless student advocate. “When you get her support on something, there is no better person,” says Cyd Cipolla ’04, who was a freshman counselor her senior year. “She cares so much.”
For more than 15 years, the grievance board’s senior faculty member has been Peter Parker, a physics professor. Spider-Man jokes aside, the 67-year-old professor does have a dual nature. He is kindly and soft-spoken, with a white beard that makes him look more like a thin Santa Claus than a superhero, yet he makes clear that he can be stern when the circumstances warrant. “Typically, we sit down with the faculty member or the student who has been accused and say, ‘What the hell did you think you were doing?’” Parker says. “I don’t remember ever having a second problem with someone we’ve spoken to.”
Gibbs decided that she wanted the board to speak to the junior. She drafted a letter laying out her version of what had happened and asking the junior not to call or e-mail her, to stay out of Davenport, to leave if he saw her at a social event, and to sit in the back of the room if they were ever in the same class. She brought the letter to a meeting with Trachtenberg, Parker, and a third board member, Christos Cabolis, then dean of Jonathan Edwards College. The three board members then met with the junior.
Gibbs was told that the junior first denied the assault, then admitted responsibility for it. He also agreed to Gibbs’s ground rules. (The junior was not contacted for this article, as neither Gibbs nor the board would release his name. Peter Quimby confirmed Gibbs’s account of how the grievance board handled her case.)
When her chemistry tutor sent Gibbs the suggestive e-mail, she went again to the board and asked Trachtenberg to meet with him—but only after the semester had ended and she’d received her grade. Trachtenberg talked to the tutor that summer. “I think this was an isolated incident,” Gibbs says. The tutor remained in his position the following year.
After postponing one test, Gibbs finished her semester on time. She stayed in counseling at University Health Services. The junior stayed away from her, as she’d asked, and she never spoke to him again. She stopped dating his friend, because she never felt she could tell him what had happened. “I never talked to him about it,” she says. “I just cut things off and disappeared.”
Trachtenberg says that at least 95 percent of students who come to the grievance board choose informal modes of resolution. That fits with national norms. According to the 2000 Justice Department study, fewer than 5 percent of campus sexual assault victims reported the crime to law enforcement. Bernice Sandler, a senior fellow at the Women’s Research and Education Institute in Washington, D.C., who has written widely on sexual harassment, says, “If you have good informal procedures and they are well implemented, most cases will be settled that way.”
Still, informal resolutions aren’t necessarily ideal in a case of serious harm. When she hears stories like Gibbs’s, Trachtenberg says, it’s difficult to watch the accused go unpunished. “Someone can come and talk to me about her experience, and it can make me very angry,” she says. “But if she doesn’t want to pursue it further we can’t make her.”
But could Yale do more to help students bring complaints to the police or to ExComm? And could it do more to help victims in other ways? “When sexual assault happens, the university’s way of dealing with it really has a lot of holes,” says Kathryn Johnson, a sophomore who last fall helped start a student group called Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention.
The students in RSVP believe strongly that there is a need for a campus office dedicated to preventing and responding to sexual assault and harassment—as a visible symbol of Yale’s commitment to fighting the problem, and as a refuge for students who are assaulted in the middle of the night. Debra Gibbs brought up the same idea this spring. While she is grateful to Quimby, Trachtenberg, and Parker, she says, she wishes “Yale had someone in the specific role of a rape crisis counselor who could respond 24 hours a day.”
Harvard opened an Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response last year. Its director, Susan Marine, counsels victims one-on-one, and she and a co-worker staff a 24-hour rape crisis hotline. Marine worked with about 50 students in the past year. With the help of a mental health clinician, she also supervises a peer hotline. Among the Ivy League schools, Columbia and Dartmouth have offices like Harvard’s. Princeton offers rape crisis and sexual harassment counseling through its university health services, and Penn offers the services through the campus women’s center.
Clinicians at Yale University Health Services point out that students have access to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker trained in rape crisis counseling 24 hours a day. “We have a full staff of responders, and women responders are available if there is a specific request,” says Carole Goldberg, a YUHS psychologist. “Any time of day or night, they will accompany a student who has been assaulted to the hospital.” To date, however, YUHS has not advertised its rape crisis service, and Goldberg acknowledges that students don’t know about it. “We need to relabel what we’re doing, to say, ’Here’s a number you can call at Yale for rape crisis,” she says. This fall, Goldberg says, YUHS will add information about rape counseling to the sexual assault and harassment literature and presentations provided during freshman orientation and to freshmen counselors.
Yale has not routinely kept statistics about the numbers and outcomes of all complaints. The only university body that currently makes its numbers public is the Yale College ExComm; it has handled two cases of sexual assault in the past five years. None of the grievance boards provide statistics. The Yale College Grievance Board’s rules don’t allow it to keep written records of informal complaints. (The rules also require that records of formal complaints be destroyed after five years—but according to the Yale general counsel’s office, that policy has never been implemented and is now being reviewed.)
Yale’s rule barring written records provides blanket confidentiality. That protects the privacy of the accused. It’s also meant to encourage victims to come forward. But the rule may be having the opposite effect—because the vacuum created by lack of information is filled with rumors about the board mishandling complaints or letting offenders off the hook. Accurate or not, these reports influence students’ perceptions. “I have faith in the professors and the administrators on the grievance board because I know them,” says Cipolla, who was a women’s and gender studies major. “But the rumors create a very difficult atmosphere for students who have been assaulted, because there are all sorts of conceptions out there of what Yale is or isn’t doing.”
Bernice Sandler of the Women’s Research and Education Institute argues that, as long as the parties remain anonymous, knowing the statistics on complaints, resolutions, and penalties helps students. “That’s how you get students to trust the process,” she says. “If you list the incidents that have happened, it tells students that if something like that happens to them, they don’t have to put up with it. And it tells everyone else that they’re not supposed to do that. Yale is losing out on a tremendous opportunity for education.”
Other schools try to respect privacy while allowing for information gathering. Dartmouth makes public the number of confidential student reports of on-campus rape, attempted rape, other unwanted contact, and relationship abuse. During the 1990s, Temple published comprehensive annual reports on sexual harassment and assault among students, staff, and faculty.
Asked to provide rough estimates for this article, Trachtenberg and Parker said that the college grievance board generally handles between one and two dozen student complaints a year. Usually three or four involve accusations against faculty members. There are a few complaints against staff members; the rest are against students. The vast majority are limited to harassment, but the allegations range from inappropriate phone or e-mail messages and rude comments to physical advances, stalking, and date rape. The grievance board has heard five formal complaints against faculty members in the past 11 years. In four of the five cases, the board made a finding of guilty and recommended sanctions, either non-renewal of a teaching contract or immediate dismissal.
When asked why the grievance board hasn’t re-leased such statistics before, Trachtenberg and Parker said no one has asked them to. But they find Sandler’s argument for public reporting persuasive. Beginning this fall, they plan to track all complaints of harassment and assault made to the grievance board and to the residential college masters and deans. “By next year at this time, we will have not impressionistic numbers but real numbers,” Trachtenberg says. “If this helps people, I’m all for it.”
Yale will also change the way it collects data under the federal law that requires universities to disclose their crime rates. This is the 1998 Clery Act, designed to keep students and parents informed about campus safety. (It was named for Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered by a man who entered her dorm and room at night through doors that had been left unlocked.) Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities are supposed to report the number of “sex offenses, forcible or nonforcible,” including rape, acquaintance rape, attempted rape, and unwanted fondling or touching, that take place on and off campus.
The law says schools must disclose all sex offenses reported to local police or “campus security authorities.” In 1999, the Department of Education published rules spelling out how this is supposed to work. The rules define campus security authorities as all officials with “significant responsibility” for student and campus activities, including “student housing, student discipline, and campus judicial proceedings.”
At Yale, these officials presumably include residential college deans and masters, deans of the professional schools and the graduate school, student affairs officers, and the sexual harassment grievance boards. However, until now, Yale has not asked these officials to report their statistics to the university, which means it has effectively collected data only from the police. According to Caroline Hendel ’83, an associate general counsel at Yale, the university police and secretary’s offices jointly sent out Clery Act memos in September 2002 asking college deans and masters, graduate and professional school deans, and student affairs officers to encourage students to report crimes and suspected crimes to the Yale police. But the memos didn’t ask these officials to submit statistics to the university for the crimes they knew about. No Clery Act memos went out in fall 2003, Hendel says, because Yale’s workers were on strike.
This approach to collecting the numbers may help to explain why Yale has been reporting fewer sex offenses than any other school in the Ivy League. Between 2000 and 2002, Yale reported 5 such crimes. Stanford reported 11, Princeton 29, Brown 28, and Harvard 80.
To students trying to raise awareness on campus, the tiny number of assaults that Yale reports is maddening. “The dominant attitude is that rape doesn’t happen here. And Yale University reports support that feeling,” wrote Della Sentilles ’06 in the Yale Daily News last winter. “Yale statistics seem misleading and Yale students are inadequately informed.”
Harvard reports many more sex offenses than other schools; it also casts a broad net for Clery Act data. The university requests statistics from police, rape counselors, and faculty and staff who oversee the residential colleges, among others. “We do a very rigorous job of making sure that all the incidents that come to any person with authority at Harvard get reported,” says Susan Marine. “Obviously, we’re not doing anything deliberate to make our numbers high. It’s not a positive, from the university’s point of view, except in the sense that we think it means that more people are getting help.” Hendel and Linda Lorimer argue that Harvard and others may have large numbers because they double-counted or included incidents not required by the Clery Act.
At Yale, the assault on Debra Gibbs is not included in the Clery Act numbers: Gibbs did not report it to the police, and neither Quimby nor the grievance board members knew that the university was collecting assault statistics. The same is true of an attempted assault a 20-year-old Davenport sophomore reported to Quimby last October, in which a drunk classmate knocked on her door on a Friday night, pushed his way in, pinned her on the bed, and started kissing and groping her. The assault ended when a friend of the sophomore walked in with her boyfriend.
When asked about Yale’s interpretation of the Clery Act, the secretary’s and general counsel’s offices began a review. “We have looked carefully at this issue and have focused attention on ways we can improve our information collection and ensure that we have accurate reports under the Clery Act,” Lorimer says. At the end of May, the secretary’s office sent an updated memo to a larger list of officials. In the context of crime reporting, the memo asks for “collection of data concerning some disciplinary referrals.” It explains that Yale will screen for double counting. The memo will go out twice a year.
Quimby received the new memo and will be reporting the October assault on the Davenport sophomore. Some recipients of the memo, however, wondered how much clarity it will provide. The category “sex offenses” appears in a list of serious crimes, including arson, murder, and manslaughter, without an explanation of the broad range of behavior that “sex offenses” encompasses under the Clery Act. Asked whether the recipients might inadvertently limit their reports to incidents of rape as a result, Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the university could add to the memo if necessary. “If there are questions out there about the meanings of the categories, we will provide definitions in response,” she says.
In the rare instance when a Yale undergraduate brings a formal complaint of harassment or assault, what balance do the university’s procedures strike between the needs of the victim and the rights of the person accused? Schools have difficult choices to make. Many of the alleged incidents are classic “he said/she said” scenarios, with no evidence to corroborate either party’s account.
The grievance board requires a Yale student who brings a formal complaint against a faculty member to write down his or her version of the alleged misconduct. The accused professor is asked to respond in writing. A hearing follows in which each side is questioned separately. Each is encouraged to have an advisor, who cannot be a lawyer or someone with legal training. The accused professor has no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser. The ExComm follows a similar procedure for formal complaints brought by students against students. (Staff and faculty who bring complaints of harassment follow separate procedures.)
Civil liberties advocates who worry about false convictions think that procedures like Yale’s don’t provide enough due process. “In a he said/she said contest, the failure to allow the accused to confront his accuser is fatal,” says Harvey Silverglate, a Boston criminal defense lawyer who co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group that has sued several universities. “Schools say that these proceedings are ’educational,’ so they don’t require a full panoply of due process rights. But I don’t understand what’s educational about a process where at the end someone can get thrown out of his job.”
Catharine MacKinnon thinks it’s helpful for a victim to be able to speak outside the presence of the person accused, at least for some part of the testimony. But she’s troubled by the tendency of universities to prevent both sides from talking to lawyers. “It’s not very helpful not to be able to consult with a lawyer while you’re going through this,” she says. “I don’t see how that benefits the victim.” MacKinnon is generally concerned that universities put more energy into making their grievance procedures look good on paper than making them work well in practice.
In past cases, Yale College’s grievance board has worked hard to uncover the facts behind accusations of sexual trespass. In the fall of 1996, the board heard a charge against Jay Jorgenson, then an assistant math professor. A first-year student who was taking a class with Jorgenson said that she had a sexual relationship with him that had begun consensually and then turned into harassment.
When the student decided to bring a formal complaint, the grievance board met for a hearing and follow-up discussions for four or five hours a day over the course of two weeks. The board heard testimony and read e-mails the student gave them. Emily Lambert ’96, ’04MD, was a student member of the board that year. Lambert was impressed by the board’s careful fact-finding. “We were this neutral group of people from all levels of the university,” she says. “I think the board took its responsibilities very seriously.”
The board found Jorgenson guilty and recommended that he be immediately relieved of his teaching duties and dismissed at the end of the fall semester. The recommendation went to Richard Brodhead ’68, ’72PhD, the dean of Yale College. But members of the math department defended Jorgenson, saying that he’d been “tried in private and hanged in public.” Brodhead rejected the recommendation to take Jorgenson out of the classroom at once, and allowed him to finish out the semester. Angry with that decision, the student who had accused Jorgenson went to the press with her claims. (Her name was never published.) Jorgenson lost a job offer from Ohio State University in the fallout. He is now a tenured professor at the City University of New York, teaching graduate and undergraduate students.
It was the Jorgenson case that led Yale to ban all sexual relationships between teachers and their students. Still, Brodhead’s handling of the case sparked outrage on campus about the power of Yale officials to override the grievance board. “The board’s decision just seems to be undercut,” said historian Nancy Cott at a public forum that November. To Lambert, Brodhead’s decision was a major disappointment. “I always respected Dean Brodhead and I’m surprised that he handled things the way he did,” she says. “It really undermines the board to ignore its recommendations.” When asked about the Jorgenson decision, Peter Parker looked pained. “My recollection is that in all but this one case the deans have followed the advice of the board,” he said later.
Brodhead becomes president of Duke University this summer. In an interview during his last week at Yale, he called the Jorgenson case a “painful episode.” He said he’d allowed Jorgenson to finish out the semester in an effort to serve the interests of the students in his classes. “He was a very fine teacher,” Brodhead said. “Anyone who has had responsibility for sitting in judgment in these cases is likely to feel, as I do, that rarely are the crime and the punishment unambiguous. I was trying to find a way to go forward that would protect students from the possibility of harm while allowing them the benefit of his teaching. Would I today do it the same way? Probably not. I didn’t give sufficient weight to the fact that leaving Jorgenson in his class would be seen to condone conduct of this sort.”
In the book Directions in Sexual Harassment Law (Yale University Press, 2004), which she co-edited with Yale law professor Reva Siegel, Catharine MacKinnon writes that “sexual harassment law transformed what was a moral foible (if that) into a legal injury.” But laws are only as good as the policies and practices that carry them out. In this area, Yale is still finding its way. It has plenty of company. At Columbia and Harvard, among other schools, there have been bitter fights over how to draft grievance procedures that respect both the rights of the accused and the needs of victims.
To Debra Gibbs, effective practices at Yale mean on-campus rape crisis counseling and publicly available information about incidents of harassment and assault. She’d like to think that things will be better for future students. Now 23, Gibbs is spending the summer in her Midwestern hometown. She plans to go to medical school in the fall.
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