Resource: To Break the Silence or Be Broken by It: A Genealogy of Women Who Have Refused to Shut Up About Harassment at Yale

By: Nicole Allan

May 1, 2009


This excerpt from a 2009 undergraduate thesis tells the story of the 1977 lawsuit that became known as Alexander v. Yale. Alexander v. Yale provided zero remedy for its plaintiffs. But it has provided one for successive female students across the country. Building upon her breakthroughs in workplace harassment law, Catharine MacKinnon and Anne Simon had crafted the revolutionary argument that sexual harassment in education was sex discrimination. The Alexander women who had been harassed by male faculty, MacKinnon and Simon argued, had been harassed because they were women. This harassment impeded their right to equal educational opportunity and thus violated Title IX of 1972’s Education Amendments. Whether or not the judges believed that the harassment had taken place or that it had actually obstructed the victims’ educational rights, the decision not to dismiss Price’s claim acknowledged that, in some possible situation, sexual harassment in education could violate Title IX. Immediately following this decision, schools across the country—including Yale—began drafting sexual harassment policies and implementing grievance procedures.

Note: Allan wrote this as an undergraduate. She was subsequently a senior editor at the Atlantic, and is now (2015) a Stanford Law student.

Resource Type(s):

Case Studies

Institution: Yale

Related Cases:

Alexander v. Yale