A seven-year investigation into Yale University’s sexual assault policy has resulted in a $165,000 fine for the prestigious university, which failed to accurately report the number of sexual crimes on campus. Underreporting rape cases is a violation of the Clery Act, which requires colleges to disclose those crime statistics to the U.S. government.
The U.S. Department of Education first began investigating Yale in 2004, when a Yale Alumni Magazine article brought the mishandled sexual assault cases to the attention of the community. The resulting investigation verified that the university failed to report four cases of sex offenses on its campus in 2001 and 2002. Over the past several years, Yale has worked with the Department of Education to improve its reporting policies — but federal officials maintain that those efforts don’t eliminate the seriousness of the university’s past failings, or the need for some kind of punishment. Yale is being fined $27,500 for each of the unreported crimes.
“This is a serious violation because current and prospective students/employees must be able to rely on accurate and complete crime information,” Mary Gust, the director of the Department of Educations’s Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group, said in a letter to Yale. “Yale’s correction of the crime statistics only after the department alerted the university of its obligations in 2004 does not excuse its earlier failure to comply with its legal obligations.”
The situation on Yale’s campus mirrors similar issues at other universities across the country that are continuing to grapple with rape culture. Particularly at elite institutions, administrators are often accused of sweeping sexual assault under the rug in order to maintain their school’s prestigious reputation. Amherst College, Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College, and Harvard University are just a few of the universities that have made recent headlines for allegedly creating a hostile environment for survivors of sexual assault.
Some college activists are beginning to mobilize to push for change on their campuses, and there has been some gradual progress recently. But as Yale demonstrates, that change can be painfully slow. The university is only now being fined for violations that occurred over a decade ago — and since then, students brought forth another complaint in 2011, and the rate of sexual assaults on campus soared to “historic levels” this year.