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Yale announces new steps amid federal sexual harassment probe

By the CNN Wire Staff
Yale University has created a panel to look at the school's sexual harassment policies in the wake of a federal probe.
Yale University has created a panel to look at the school's sexual harassment policies in the wake of a federal probe.
  • Yale's president taps elite graduates to look at the school's sexual harassment policies
  • Top school administrators are also meeting with students
  • Authorities are probing a possible "sexually hostile environment," the provost says

(CNN) -- The president of Yale University announced new steps Friday in the wake of a federal sexual harassment probe at the school, including creating an external committee of former graduates and facilitating informal chats between administrators and students.

The school is accused of providing an insufficient process for addressing the federal gender-equity law, Title IX, which may have resulted in "the denial of equal opportunity to education for numerous university students," U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw has said.

In an email Friday, Yale President Richard Levin said administrators and others at the New Haven, Connecticut, university will cooperate with the federal education department's Office of Civil Rights.

The university will take other immediate measures distinct from that investigation, the email said.

They include the creation of an advisory committee, which has been charged with offering advice on how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale," Levin said.

"The committee will spend time listening to members of our community about the situation as they live it and will make its own assessments," the president wrote, saying the group's recommendations will be submitted to him next fall and eventually will be made public.

The group will be chaired by Margaret Marshall, the former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Other members, including former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, the University of Chicago's Dean of Students Kimberly Goff-Crews and Elizabeth Smiley, a San Francisco consultant. All were appointed by Levin, and all are Yale graduates.

This move comes a week after University Provost Peter Salovey announced that an internal committee -- consisting of student, faculty and administrative members -- would meet to build "upon the existing processes of the college and each of the schools," and will address "allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct of every kind."

That committee is to start up on July 1.

"We believe that this streamlining will make it simpler for students and faculty to initiate and pursue any complaint," Salovey said in an email sent to Yale faculty and students.

Federal investigators are looking into a complaint that claims university policies allowed a "sexually hostile environment" to exist on campus, Salovey has said.

The complaint blames Yale for failing to adequately respond to alleged incidents of harassment, according to Bradshaw.

The federal investigation follows a controversial YouTube video released in October that apparently showed new recruits of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity repeating chants encouraging rape as they marched through campus.

The board of directors of Delta Kappa Epsilon issued a statement saying the international fraternity strongly condemns the actions of the Yale chapter and acknowledges that the sentiments expressed were offensive.

The complaint also follows reports of a party in which undergraduate students were allegedly asked to strip naked.

While Levin did not address any specific incident in his message, he did detail other actions -- in addition to setting up the second committee -- being taken before the school year ends in the coming weeks.

That includes top administrators, including Salovey and several deans, engaging students in the school's dining halls for "a conversation about the campus climate and our policies governing sexual misconduct." Levin said these informal meetings are taking place at his request, facilitated by members of the school's Women's Center.

"The deepest values of our institution compel us to take very seriously the issues raised by the complaint," Levin said.