All members of the University community who participate in proceedings before the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) should understand the University’s expectations regarding the confidentiality of UWC proceedings.
The UWC’s procedures state that “all members of the Yale community who are involved in a matter before the UWC are expected to maintain the confidentiality of its proceedings and the information obtained for those proceedings.” The purpose of confidentiality is to encourage parties and witnesses to participate in UWC proceedings and share all the information they have to offer, which is essential to reaching a fair outcome. If parties or witnesses fear that their participation in a UWC proceeding could be revealed, then concerns about reputation, social tension, or retaliation may cause them to keep silent. In short, if the UWC cannot protect confidentiality, it cannot fulfill its mandate to “fairly and expeditiously address formal and informal complaints of sexual misconduct.” Every member of the University community should recognize that breaches of confidentiality erode the community’s trust in the UWC process and impair its effectiveness.
The UWC’s procedures allow parties to select an advisor with whom they can discuss all aspects of the proceedings, and the University understands that parties will seek support and advice from their families. We expect, however, that parties will impress on their advisors and families the importance of maintaining strict confidentiality. Of course, persons involved in a difficult situation will also seek support from friends, but participants in UWC proceedings are expected to do so without revealing details of the proceedings or information they have obtained as a result of the proceedings.
In some circumstances, a person who fails to preserve the confidentiality of UWC proceedings could face University disciplinary action. Specifically, if a member of the Yale community breaches confidentiality in order to retaliate against a person for his or her participation in a UWC proceeding – as a complainant, respondent, or witness – the UWC has the authority to hear a complaint of retaliation and recommend punishment.
Finally, breaching the expectation of confidentiality may have legal implications. The circumstances surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct are often sharply disputed and have the potential to affect the reputations of the persons involved. The University believes that statements made in good faith as part of UWC proceedings are legally protected and could not be used as the basis for a defamation lawsuit. Statements made outside of UWC proceedings lack that protection and could lead to a legal claim by a person who believes that the statements are false, that they identify him or her to others (even if the person’s name is not mentioned), and that they have harmed his or her reputation.
If you have any questions regarding your responsibility to preserve the confidentiality of UWC proceedings, please contact UWC Chair David Post at firstname.lastname@example.org or Secretary Aley Menon at email@example.com.