May 9, 2006 — -- It's one of the top-rated universities in the world, but all is not well on the leafy campus of Yale University.
A Yale junior has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the school and a male student whom she accused of sexually assaulting her in 2005.
In August 2005, the female student and fellow Yale freshman Gregory Korb both attended an on-campus event the school throws to welcome freshmen to the campus.
After a day of partying and drinking, Korb accompanied the girl to her dorm room and, according to court papers filed by the alleged victim's lawyer in New York State Supreme Court, "subjected her to physical and sexual assault, biting her about the face and breasts, causing several physical injuries, pain and suffering. He physically restrained her and prevented her from leaving until he was done."
Korb was arrested early on the morning of Aug. 27, 2005, and charged with first-degree sexual assault, second-degree assault and first-degree unlawful restraint in the first degree. Last November, he pleaded no contest to third-degree assault and second-degree threatening and was sentenced to 18 months' probation and prohibited from making contact with the victim or being on the Yale campus during his probation. At the time, Korb did not make a statement but through his lawyer maintained his innocence.
The victim and her mother claim that Yale was negligent in its failure to provide security at campus events, to prevent underage drinking and to change its policies since the incident.
Further, the plaintiffs claim the university allowed Korb back on campus in December 2006 to sign up for his study abroad program but failed to then escort him off campus, which they say violated the terms of his probation.
The alleged victim is suing Korb for physical damages and for compensation her for the psychiatric care she receives for "mental and emotional damage and suffering, which services she will likely need for the rest of her life," according to the complaint.
"Yale has zero tolerance for sexual assault or misconduct on the part of any member of its community," replied Helaine S. Klasky, Yale's director of public affairs, in a written statement. "The undergraduate regulations clearly define and prohibit sexual misconduct and warn that any student who engages in sexual misconduct may be subject to criminal prosecution and University disciplinary action."
Klasky also emphasizes that "it was the Yale police who responded and made the arrest that led to the serious criminal charges that were lodged" related to the the August 2005 incident. According to the statement, the university provides "round-the-clock assistance to any victim of sexual assualt or misconduct, including medical care, counseling and help with deciding what remedy to seek, including notifying the police and pressing charges."
Klasky went on to say that no alcohol was provided by the University as the mother and daughter claim, "Yale does not provide alcohol under any circumstances to students under the age of 21."
An attorney for Korb, William Dow, was not reachable for comment. An attorney for Yale, Brock Thomas Dubin, said that he had received the complaint but would not comment on its claims.
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."
"There is this culture at Yale where they're above the law and untouchable, and I don't know why Harvard and other schools are better about this," Wolf said.
Wolf's story inspired a lengthy piece in the Yale alumni magazine, which prompted the complaint by the watchdog group Security on Campus.
"They claimed that they were the safest in the Ivy League, and one of the reasons is that they weren't collecting all the info that they should have," said Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus.
In recent years, more students nationwide are taking their cases to court.
"More students are coming out and realizing that maybe there is a reason to hold colleges accountable," said Amanda Farahany, an attorney whose firm specializes in representing victims of sexual assault on campus.
Most of these cases are successful and are settled out of court by publicity-shy universities, Farahany said.
"It depends on the jury, and it depends on the facts of the case," she said. "If it's a typical date rape scenario, then they might not side with the plaintiff. But if it's a situation where the school knows about someone with prior incidents, we are seeing that juries want to hold the schools accountable."
According to some studies, less than 5 percent of victims of campus sexual assault report those crimes to law enforcement, although that is slowly changing. From 2003 to 2005, the number of such incidents on campus increased slightly, from 2,615 in 2003 to 2,697 in 2005, but experts believe most of that that increase can be attributed to a greater willingness to report such incidents, said Security on Campus' Carter.