This is not the first time Yale has been accused of not responding adequately to students' complaints of assault. Several years ago, a student at the Yale Divinity School, Kathryn Kelly, sued the university, claiming that Yale dissuaded her "from pursuing disciplinary action" against a male student who she accused of sexually assaulting her in 1999. And she claimed that the school ignored her requests to remove him from a class in which they were both enrolled. Kelly's case was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2003. Neither Dubin, who defended Yale in that case, nor lawyer William Palmieri, who represented Kelly, would comment on the suit or the terms of the settlement.
In its claim that Yale failed to provide a safe and secure environment for its students, the new lawsuit resurrected claims that the school underreported the number of sexual assaults on campus.
The Department of Education has been investigating Yale since 2004 in response to a complaint from campus security watchdog group Security on Campus. According to the group, Yale's crime statistics in 2001, 2002 and 2003 were not accurate because they didn't include incidents reported to school officials and only included official police records. During those years, the campus reported only one forcible sexual offense per year, while other Ivy League schools, such as Harvard and Dartmouth, reported higher numbers.
According to the most recent statistics, the number of forcible sexual offenses on campus at least doubled, from five in 2004 to 11 in 2005.
The Department of Education would not comment on its probe of the school.
Another spokesperson for Yale, Gila Reinstein said, "Our position is that we are in complete and reasonable compliance with the requirement to report statistics."
One noted alumna of the school was not surprised by the lawsuit or the inquiry by the Department of Education. Feminist author Naomi Wolf, who graduated in 1984, said that Yale has historically failed to take sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously.
In a cover story for New York magazine in 2004, Wolf alleged that well-known professor Harold Bloom put his hand on her inner thigh in 1983. Wolf kept the incident to herself for twenty years and did not inform the school until before her article was published. She says Yale was unresponsive to her subsequent inquiries about the university's policies on sexual harassment.
"Because it's done such a good job of concealing the evidence, Yale doesn't have that reputation" of a school that's unsafe for students," Wolf told ABCNEWS.com. "Twenty years of systematic cover up and stonewalling did a lot to bring people out to tell their stories. I know from hearing from a lot of alumni and parents after my piece came out. A lot of parents were actively worried about their daughters, and alumni were outraged and put pressure on the administration to clean up their act."
Bloom who is still a tenured professor at Yale, refused to comment on Wolf's allegations brought to light 3 years ago. "While that horrible defamation went on, I refused to talk to any journalists," he told ABCNews.com. "Now get off the phone."
A spokesperson for Yale did not respond to Wolf's claims except to say that "University disciplinary matters, whether they involve a student or a faculty member or a staffer, are confidential."