As you are likely aware, a troubling New York Times article published yesterday focused on a case of sexual harassment at the School of Medicine, and, more generally, on the school’s work environment. I want to convey my thoughts about the issues raised in the article, and to share with you my commitment to fostering an environment of respectful, fair, and equitable treatment for all faculty, staff, and students—not just at the medical school, but throughout the entire university.
No one at Yale should be mistreated, bullied, harassed, or denied professional opportunities they deserve. It is essential that all of us understand this and act accordingly. I cannot be more emphatic about this point.
Provost Ben Polak and I joined Dean Robert Alpern today at the inaugural meeting of the medical school’s Task Force on Gender Equity. I expressed in the strongest terms that the work of this group of faculty is a priority for the university as well as the school. The Task Force was charged by the dean “to define areas in which we can eliminate barriers to the advancement of women faculty at [the school], and ensure that we have in place all appropriate policies, procedures and measures necessary to ensure gender equity.” At today’s meeting, I emphasized, as did the dean, how seriously we take this work and urged the Task Force to interpret its charge broadly so that it can produce comprehensive recommendations for the medical school community, including those that relate to opportunities for leadership and an exemplary workplace culture and climate.
The provost, dean, and I will meet again with the Task Force by the end of the semester to receive any interim recommendations that should be pursued immediately. In the meantime, Dr. Linda Bockenstedt, who is chairing the Task Force, will ask its members to make themselves available for confidential communication with anyone at the university who wants to offer advice or reflections about these issues. Dr. Stephanie Spangler, deputy provost and university Title IX coordinator, will serve as the provost’s and my liaison to the Task Force. I have asked this group to report its findings and recommendations not only to the dean, but also to the provost and me. I have high expectations for the work of the Task Force.
Beyond the issues raised about the work environment at the medical school, equally troubling to me is the fact that the newspaper article suggested concerns with the processes of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC). First and foremost, I want to assure you that the UWC has been faithfully and diligently pursuing its mandate to review complaints of sexual misconduct in a thorough, fair, and unbiased manner. Although it is sometimes a source of frustration to those who value transparency, including myself, this work is carried out—of necessity—with careful attention to confidentiality in order to ensure a fair outcome and protect the parties involved. Second, and more specifically, I would like to correct the misrepresentations of the provost’s role in UWC cases in which a faculty member is charged with sexual misconduct. The provost’s responsibility in such cases is to render a decision about penalties based upon his consideration of materials generated in the process. The provost reviews the report from the UWC panel, which sets out the panel’s findings of fact, its conclusions, and its recommended sanctions; he also reviews the responses to the UWC panel report submitted by the complainant and respondent. A dean plays this role in cases where the respondent is a student. The provost or dean, as decision maker, can—and sometimes does—impose sanctions that differ from those suggested by the panel. It is my experience that these decision makers fulfill this responsibility with care and consideration. A full description of the UWC procedures is available at http://provost.yale.edu/uwc/procedures.
Processes are important, but most important is creating an environment of trust and mutual support at Yale. If we are to achieve the vision of a more unified Yale, standards must be enforced consistently, inappropriate behavior must be addressed expeditiously, and everyone must be treated with fairness and respect. We have more to do to realize this vision, but I am committed to the task ahead and ask you to join me.