Yale Settles Charges of Sexual Discrimination

The school has reached an agreement with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to improve its sexual harassment prevention programs after a video of an offensive fraternity chant went viral.

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

The Department of Education announced on Friday that it had resolved a complaint that Yale University had failed to eliminate sexual discrimination on campus.

The complaint, filed by a group of 16 current and former students in March 2011, stemmed from an incident on campus on the evening of Oct. 13, 2010, in which members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity marched across the Yale campus to a dorm where many female students lived and chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” A video of the chanting men was posted online and quickly went viral, spurring an uproar at the university and nationwide.

The complainants alleged that Yale did not adequately punish those involved in the incident — and in a long list of previous incidents — and in failing to do so, created a sexually hostile environment on campus. The complainants said the university’s failings precluded women from having the same access to education as their male counterparts—which would put the school in violation of the federal Title IX law, which stipulates that any educational institution that takes federal funding cannot discriminate against women. (Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are all considered discrimination on the basis of sex.)

(READ: It’s Not Just Yale: Are Colleges Doing Enough to Combat Sexual Violence?)

Under the agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Yale has agreed to improve and publicize university resources and programming aimed at responding to and preventing sexual harassment and violence, provide periodic assessments of the campus climate, implement a new grievance process designed to promptly and equitably address complaints of sexual misconduct and, when appropriate, notify the campus community of the outcome of complaints. OCR will continue to monitor the university through May 31, 2014.

“Sexual violence and harassment have no place in our nation’s schools,” Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights said in a statement. “Every student must have a fair chance to a high quality education, but sexual harassment and violence far too often deny students their right to an equal education.”

She continued, “I applaud the steps Yale has taken and has agreed to take to address immediate concerns and to put systems in place to help prevent future Title IX discrimination. We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Yale to better ensure a safe and supportive environment for all students.”

Yale issued a statement saying it was pleased that OCR closed it’s investigation without any finding of non-compliance by the university. “We are please as well with the terms of our voluntary agreement,” the statement said. “Over the past two years, the university has committed extensive resources toward improving its policies, procedures, practices and services to provide an environment in which all students feel safe and well supported, and protected from sexual misconduct.”

Alexandra Brodsky, one of the 16 complainants, told TIME via email that while she and the other complainants have been happy to see the progress Yale has made, more needs to be done. “We do agree with OCR, however, that there is definitely a lot more work for Yale to do to combat sexual violence on campus,” Brodsky said.

Specifically, Brodsky said the university needs to more to ensure victims have access to a wide range of options to address harassment or assault, especially “given Yale’s history of encouraging students to turn to mediation, rather than legal action or an official disciplinary complaint.”

“One of the main reasons we filed the complaint was the number of victims who felt that Yale had discouraged them from seeking any recourse more public or binding than private arbitration,” Brodsky said. “After the investigation started, Yale created a new sexual misconduct reporting system, which is a marked improvement … however, most complaints filed are still ‘informal’ private mediation. We’re glad OCR will be keeping an eye on this to make sure Yale isn’t pressuring students into this option.”

Kayla Webley is a Staff Writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley, on Facebook or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

(READ: It’s Not Just Yale: Are Colleges Doing Enough to Combat Sexual Violence?)

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