About 25 students, protesting the administration’s response to allegations of violence against anti-war activists, entered Woodbridge Hall Friday and remained there until the building closed.
Entering the building Friday morning, the group demanded a meeting with Yale President Richard Levin, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg. The protest came two weeks after a group of men allegedly entered the suite of anti-war activist Katherine Lo ’05 and left a threatening note on her message board, and days after several other incidents of intimidation against anti-war activists were alleged.
Yale police are investigating seven incidents of harassment or intimidation on campus, Yale Police Chief James Perrotti wrote in an e-mail to students Saturday.
Christopher Jordan ’04 said Friday that the administration’s lack of response led students to take action.
“We feel unsafe and that is what prompted us to meet here today,” Jordan said.
Two representatives of the protesters, Jordan and Shelita Stewart ’04, met with Levin, Brodhead and Trachtenberg Friday morning but were dissatisfied with the results of the discussion. In response, protesters said they would not leave the building until administrators agreed to a list of three demands. The students demanded that administrators acknowledge seven “violent events” that had occurred on campus within the past two weeks, launch disciplinary investigations into the incidents, and promise three meetings between the group and Levin. The three administrators declined to sign the letter.
Brodhead met with the group later in the morning.
“The values of our community will be upheld,” Brodhead told the students gathered inside Woodbridge Hall. “Part of education is learning what things one needs to suppress in oneself to live in a community.”
At 3:45 p.m. Friday, Levin issued a statement to all Yale students, professors and staff, saying the alleged incidents, if true, possibly violated University regulations and the law. He also offered other opportunities for students to discuss the incidents. After a second meeting with Levin, the protesters agreed to leave the building when it closed at 5 p.m.
Stewart said she was disappointed but said Levin agreed to some of the group’s demands.
“We didn’t get the signatures,” Stewart said. “But we will hold President Levin to his word.”
Levin said he thought the meeting and his e-mail would satisfy some of the protesters’ concerns.
“The students [inside and outside Woodbridge] were deeply concerned about the recent events and obviously — passionate about them. And I’m glad that my communication was helpful in relieving some of the anxieties and stresses in the community,” Levin said. “Obviously, everyone will feel better when the perpetrators are identified and dealt with appropriately.”
The group complained that the language Brodhead used in an e-mail to students Thursday was too weak. Brodhead objected to the characterization of his e-mail and said sending another would make students less likely to read his e-mails in the future.
“I thought yesterday’s statement left little to the imagination,” Brodhead said. “I said that harassment has no place in this community.”
Students also rallied outside Woodbridge Hall throughout the day Friday. The number of students varied from about 50 early in the day to less than 10 when the protesters inside Woodbridge left.
“Blacks, Latinos, Arabs, Asians, and whites. No racist war, no more, no more, defend our civil rights,” protesters chanted.
In his e-mail to students Saturday, Perrotti asked for help in Yale’s investigation of the incidents.
“Since our investigations began in late March, we have interviewed numerous students and gathered evidence,” Perrotti said. “Interviews are continuing throughout the weekend.”
Yale Police declined to give specific details about the investigations Sunday.
“All I can say is the investigation is ongoing at this point,” Yale Police Sgt. Keith Pullen said.
One of the incidents protesters claimed as an example of intimidation were “multiple anonymous, racist and threatening posts made on the YDN online forum in response to the article on Katherine Lo.” The Yale Daily News online forums had allowed readers to post comments about articles anonymously before they were shut down Wednesday after a decision by top News editors.
“At the time we removed the forums, there were not, in our opinion, any racist or threatening postings, as some students have since alleged,” News editor in chief Rebecca Dana ’04 said. “We deliberately kept certain details of Kat Lo’s account out of Wednesday’s story because we could not get them independently confirmed. We removed the online forums because people were posting, and thereby publicizing, those details faster than we could remove them, not because of any deluge of objectionable posts.”
Following a police department request, the News turned over the contents of the forums to assist in the investigation.