Life after suspension: A look at Yale’s protocols

Life after suspension:
A look at Yale’s protocols

Published on September 18, 2019

The first day of class in fall of 2018 was a reunion of sorts for many members of the prestigious Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy — a selective two semester-long course that studies challenges of statecraft, politics and social change.

While most students knew one another already from the spring semester, anyone who had taken time off from Yale was new to the group.

One such student explained to the class that his sojourn from Yale was spent on a gubernatorial campaign.

But another classmate recognized this student, not for his accomplishments nor for his leadership positions on campus. Instead, she recognized him as the student who had been suspended and barred from campus for sexual misconduct.

She contacted other Yalies to report what she knew. She reached out to the director of the Grand Strategy Program, history professor Beverly Gage, who said she had been unaware of the allegations until earlier that morning. Gage promised to look into it and emphasized that she takes these matters seriously, according to an email obtained by the News.

But by the time the semester had begun, the class’ roster proved more or less finalized. Regardless of the suspension, Yale allowed the student to remain in Grand Strategy. The News has decided not to name the student found responsible for sexual misconduct given that he is not a public figure on campus and will instead refer to him as Tyler.

Per University policy, a suspended student is allowed to participate in all the academic offerings on campus once they return, according to an email from Gage obtained by the News. Gage declined to comment on the specifics of her dealings with Tyler and other students in the class. When a News reporter called Tyler to ask for comment, he hung up the phone immediately after she identified herself as a reporter. He did not respond to requests for comment over email or Facebook messenger.

As alleged perpetrators readjust to life on campus, the Yale community is forced to grapple with how, in the classroom and in social spaces, it will continue to hold its members accountable.

Several students were upset by Tyler’s presence in the course, which involves intense group work and a number of dinners with an open bar. One student, who preferred to stay anonymous for fear of retribution, told the News that in conversations with Title IX administrators, their message to her was clear: They would not even meet with Tyler to discuss the possibility of taking another course or modifying his participation in Grand Strategy.

“They said they had to be careful and couldn’t even meet with him to discuss it because they didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable,” the student said. “But I wondered — whose discomfort is being prioritized here? There were survivors of sexual assault in the class, who were uncomfortable attending dinners at an open bar with a student found responsible by Yale to have committed penetration without consent. What about our discomfort?”

FROM SPRING FLING TO GS

During Tyler’s sophomore year, he took time off to deal with his mental health, according to a source close to the individual who filed the complaint against Tyler. But despite his first leave from campus, Tyler still made appearances at Yale to visit friends — including members of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. He attended Spring Fling in 2016 — the weekend of the alleged sexual assault, according to the source close to the complainant.

The complainant does not want to be interviewed for this story, according to the source. The News could not obtain documents from the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct — a body composed of students, faculty and administrators that addresses sexual misconduct complaints across the University. But two sources with knowledge of the situation — the source close to the complainant and the anonymous Grand Strategy student who spoke to Title IX administrators — corroborated that Tyler had been at the center of a sexual assault allegation.

The complainant initially filed an informal complaint with the Title IX office. Such procedures often mean that the individual can pursue boundary arrangements to limit contact with an alleged attacker. The individual later filed a formal complaint during the 2016-2017 academic school year. Towards the end of the spring semester, the UWC found Tyler responsible for penetration without consent, according to the source close to the complainant. But the UWC did not immediately announce the corresponding punishment.

“It’s very unusual for them to announce the punishment and the verdict separately,” said Helen Price ’18, founder of United Against Sexual Assault at Yale.

She added that the committee may have done so in order to allow Tyler to complete his semester, so he could receive credit for his work, including his completion of the first semester of Grand Strategy. In an email to the News, Yale spokesperson Karen Peart said that once the UWC panel provides its decision to the parties involved, decision-makers generally issue the verdict — determining if a violation was committed and if so, what the penalty should be — within seven days.

Tyler was suspended from campus for the following academic year, effective fall of 2017. According to his LinkedIn, he spent his year away from the University working in consulting and as a campaign manager.

In addition to the student who first recognized Tyler, the source close to the complainant also emailed Gage on Sept. 6 to express concerns for students in the class who had already voiced dissatisfaction with Tyler’s presence. The individual said several students worried for their safety, as well as Tyler’s ability to “be a part of Yale’s most prestigious program, one that is intended to groom future leaders.”

“One of the students who has been re-admitted to the Grand Strategy program, [Tyler], has just returned from a year-long suspension from Yale for raping another student,” the source wrote.

On Sept. 9, Gage followed back up with the student.

“The university’s policy is that students who return to campus are considered full members of the Yale community, with the right to re-engage all educational opportunities, including selective programs such as GS,” Gage wrote.

Several students in the class were dissatisfied with this response, calling for Tyler’s removal from the class or that he complete GS as an independent study.

The anonymous student said she met with Title IX administrators, who seemed more concerned with protecting Tyler rather than students in the class.

“Title IX accommodations primarily address the needs and rights of complainants and respondents,” wrote Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity Stephanie Spangler in an email to the News in response to the anonymous student’s criticism. “That said, the Title IX coordinators are also available to all members of the community, even if they are not party to a particular case, to understand their concerns and explore possible ways to address them.”

Tyler did one of the three mandatory assignments for that semester — the briefing group assignment — on his own. Still, he attended GS dinners throughout the semester. In the fall of 2018, Grand Strategy offered six dinners — three of which were mandatory. The two anonymous sources — the GS student and the person close to the victim — told the News that one student in the course abandoned the events altogether because of Tyler’s presence. The final module is a crisis simulation, in which some students act as Presidential cabinet members, dealing with a crisis. Individuals receive mock roles to play for the assignment. Tyler was designated Senate majority leader.

“This was the semester of the Kavanaugh hearings,” the anonymous student said of the casting. “So at least the simulation was realistic.”

WHAT HAPPENS ONCE SUSPENDED

When a student who has been suspended returns to campus, they may have restrictions placed on their leadership opportunities, depending on specific organizations’ rules. SigEp, the fraternity Tyler was a member of, declined to comment on specific cases. But Jeremy Uys ’21, president of SigEp, said suspension from Yale for sexual misconduct would result in expulsion from the fraternity, and the two anonymous sources — the anonymous student and the source close to the complainant — told the News that Tyler was, in fact, expelled from the frat.

According to Facebook posts and his LinkedIn, Tyler had also served as a member of the Black Men’s Union’s leadership prior to his suspension. Current president of the BMU, Cameron Luther ’21, also said that he cannot discuss individuals and the particulars of sexual misconduct cases. The organization’s constitution regarding membership requirements, which has been in place since their creation in 2007, states that officers who leave Yale College for longer than a semester for any reason must withdraw from Board. But if a student violates the University’s regulations, the individual cannot regain their leadership position or even membership.

Still, the anonymous student and the source close to the complainant told the News these restrictions do not extend to academics, even for, at the time, prestigious programs like GS.

The University would only inform a professor of a student’s record of sexual misconduct if the faculty member had “legitimate educational interest,” as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Peart said this reasoning could allow the University to share such information with a professor if the complainant and respondent were together in that faculty member’s class.

Price, who has met with administrators and members of the Title IX committee on numerous occasions, said the University rarely expels students for sexual misconduct. Recent exceptions include Saifullah Khan, expelled in 2019 for sexual assault, and Jack Montague, expelled in 2016 for penetration without consent.

While the requirements for reinstatement are clearly outlined for students who withdraw from Yale for medical, personal and academic reasons, the same cannot be said of students suspended for misconduct, sexual or otherwise, who wish to return to campus.

For medical, personal or academic withdrawals, Yale clearly delineates procedures for applicants seeking reinstatement. These students must carry out an interview, which may be in-person or via Skype, with the chair or another member of the Committee on Reinstatement, should the chair be unavailable. The chair has conducted all such reinstatement interviews over the past two years. They must also submit a personal statement, typically 500-700 words in length, explaining the circumstances leading up to the withdrawal, an account of the student’s activity since then and why the student wants to and feels prepared to return to Yale. Submitted with this statement is a reinstatement application form. All students must submit two letters of support from “instructors or other professionals,” and students who withdrew for medical reasons must also obtain a letter from a health professional.

But in the case of reinstatement after suspension for sexual misconduct, the procedures are thinly explained.

Peart said the reinstatement process is “the same for all students, regardless of the reasons for leaving.” She added that when a student is suspended and a reinstatement application is required, the Committee on Reinstatement can reach out to the disciplinary body that imposed the sanction for more information on the reason for the penalty. They may also consult academic records or withdrawal records for students looking to apply for reinstatement.

If the respondent is an undergraduate, the decision-maker, the dean of Yale College, may also deem that fewer or more requirements are needed on a case-by-case basis.

“All situations are unique,” said Peart when asked what the reinstatement process entails for students suspended for misconduct. “Suspension may require application for reinstatement, training or other imposed conditions that must be met in order to return to the university.”

In the Yale College Undergraduate Regulations 2019-2020, the rules do state that “suspension may require petition for reinstatement,” but, unlike for returns from withdrawal, they do not share specifics of what this petition entails.

In the application for the 2019 program, Grand Strategy added a “Disciplinary History” question. The prompt requests students to provide information concerning any “penalty of probation, suspension or expulsion,” incurred either at Yale or at another college or university. According to the question, students must email Gage directly to indicate that the penalty incurred, what disciplinary body imposed that penalty and a description of the misconduct. The prompt states that this information “will be considered in the context of your entire application.” According to Gage, the Yale general counsel’s office advised the Grand Strategy program on “the wording and scope of the query.” The Office of the General Counsel did not respond to a request for comment, instead redirecting the News to Peart, who had no further comments on the matter.

“We added this question to ensure that we have a complete understanding of applicants’ records,” Gage wrote in an email to the News. “Any disciplinary information will be considered in the context of a holistic review of a student’s full application.”

To Price, Yale’s willingness to grant full academic privileges to those found responsible for sexual misconduct is just another example of the University’s pursuit of self-preservation and self-interest over all else.

“It really speaks to their priorities,” Price said. “My years of experience of Yale dealing with sexual misconduct is that they would rather not hear about it, and if they do hear about it, they are going to try and create an outcome that is best for Yale, not the victim.”

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