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Alexander v. Yale University

decided: September 22, 1980.


Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Burns, J ., entered July 3, 1979, dismissing a complaint brought against Yale University by five women students of graduates who alleged that sexual harassment of women at Yale violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681. Affirmed.

Before Lumbard and Mulligan, Circuit Judges, and Spears, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Lumbard

Five women who were students at Yale University appeal from a judgment entered by Judge Burns on July 3, 1979, in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The appellants alleged in their complaint that Yale was violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., and H.E.W.'s Title IX regulations, by refusing to consider seriously women students' complaints of sexual harassment by male faculty members and administrators. They argue that the district court erred in dismissing four of them as plaintiffs, in denying plaintiff Pamela Price's subsequent request for class certification, in excluding certain evidence from the trial of Price's claim, and in failing to grant the relief requested-an order enjoining Yale to institute a procedure for receiving and investigating complaints of sexual harassment-because Price failed to prove that she was sexually harassed. We affirm the judgment of the district court for Yale as to all of the plaintiffs.


Section 1681 of Title IX (hereinafter "Title IX") states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance ....

Under the authority of § 1682, H.E.W. requires educational institutions receiving federal assistance to "adopt grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee complaints alleging any action which would be prohibited by this part." 45 C.F.R. § 86.8(b).

In an amended complaint filed on November 15, 1977, three female students, two female graduates, and one male professor at Yale alleged that Yale's "failure to combat sexual harassment of female students and its refusal to institute mechanisms and procedures to address complaints and make investigations of such harassment interferes with the educational process and denies equal opportunity in education" in violation of Title IX and H.E.W.'s regulation.*fn1 The plaintiffs sought as relief (1) a declaratory judgment that Yale's policies and practices regarding sexual harassment violate Title IX and (2) an order enjoining Yale, among other duties, "to institute and continue a mechanism for receiving, investigating, and adjudicating complaints of sexual harassment, to be designed and implemented under the supervision" of the district court.

The plaintiffs sought that relief on behalf of themselves and the class, which they purported to represent, of those Yale students and faculty members "who are disadvantaged and obstructed in their educational relations" by Yale's failure to combat sexual harassment. More specifically, they sued on behalf of (1) female students who have had to choose between tolerating sexual demands from "men in positions of authority at Yale" or sacrificing "any educational opportunity, benefit or chance to grow or advance educationally;" (2) female students who "are subject to the discriminatory atmosphere adverse to their educational development created by the practice of such sexual harassment;" and (3) all faculty members "whose professional effectiveness in teaching and in engaging in the pursuit of knowledge with students is seriously impaired by that contamination of the faculty/student relationship created by defendant's tolerance of said sexual pressures."

Additionally, each plaintiff alleged an injury which was "the result of a pattern, practice, and policy of defendant, its officers, agents, and employees, of neglecting and refusing to consider seriously complaints of sexual harassment of women students, with the effect of actively condoning continued sexual harassment of female students by male faculty members and administrators." Thus:

Ronni Alexander, a 1977 graduate of Yale College, alleged that she "found it impossible to continue playing the flute and abandoned her study of the instrument, thus aborting her desired professional career," because of the repeated sexual advances, "including coerced sexual intercourse," by her flute instructor, Keith Brion. Alexander further alleged that she attempted to complain to Yale officials about her harassment, but "was discouraged and intimidated by unresponsive administrators and complex and ad hoc methods."

Margery Reifler, a member of the Class of 1980, alleged that Richard Kentwell, coach of the field hockey team, "sexually harassed" her while she was working as that team's manager, and that she "suffered distress and humiliation .... and was denied recognition due her as team manager, all to her educational detriment." Reifler further alleged that she "wanted to complain to responsible authorities of defendant about said sexual harassment but was intimidated by the lack of legitimate procedures and was unable to determine if any channels for complaint about sexual harassment were available to her."

Pamela Price, a member of the Class of 1979, alleged that one of her course instructors, Raymond Duvall, "offered to give her a grade of "A' in the course in exchange for her compliance with his sexual demands," that she refused, and that she received a grade of "C" which "was not the result of a fair evaluation of her academic work, but the result of her failure to accede to Professor Duvall's sexual demands." She further alleges that she complained to officials of Yale who failed to investigate her complaint and told her that "nothing could be done to remedy her situation."

Lisa Stone, a member of the Class of 1978, alleged that her discussions with a woman student who had been sexually harassed and the absence of an "established, legitimate procedure" for complaints of such harassment caused her "emotional distress," deprived her of "the tranquil atmosphere necessary to her pursuit of a liberal education," ...

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