Reasoned discussion, not threatening, is the right course of action in Zeta Psi incident

I agree with the Women’s Center; the action of Zeta Psi was offensive and in poor taste. However, I strongly disagree with the action taken by the Center. Rather than using this incident to open a dialogue about bigotry and sexism, a productive debate has been cut off by a threat of legal action.

The right course of action would have allowed for a frank and open discussion, rather than the legal battle about to ensue. The Women’s Center should have approached the fraternity and asked for a retraction and apology before sending an e-mail to the broader Yale community. By going straight to legal action, a nuanced conversation about what occurred and why it was wrong will be impossible.

In addition, using this incident as emblematic of broader misogyny at Yale is unfair. As a woman at Yale, I have never felt uncomfortable voicing my opinion, claiming my rights and expressing myself. I think the dominant culture is one of tolerance, and that diversity of thought is welcomed. However, I think at hand is the larger social issue of sexual inequalities and I hope the Women’s Center can play a valuable role in addressing them.

I hope that rather then becoming mired in name-calling games, the Women’s Center will have the forbearance to sit down at the table with the members of Zeta Psi. Although their behavior was inexcusable, they should not be demonized as examples of misogynists and instead we should discuss this in the context of broader expression of sexism at Yale.

Emily Weissler

Jan. 22

The writer is a junior in Calhoun College.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    The author is correct in her assessment that "debate has been cut off by a threat of legal action." Certainly both the WC and Zeta Psi are carefully watching what they say right now.

    However, consider the alternative: The WC asks Zeta Psi for an apology, perhaps brokered by the administration. Perhaps they write an op-ed in the YDN or the Herald. Zeta Psi gives an apology very similar to the one given before.

    What would happen then? Deafening silence. Would anyone care? No, because Yalies are smart enough to realize that superficial band-aids aren't enough to cause real change. You want proof? The same thing has happened before-- not sure which frat, but the chant was "no means yes, yes means anal." An oped was written. As far as I know, no frat stepped forward, no action was taken, and no opinions were changed.

    Maybe it's true that the WC and Zeta aren't exactly on speaking terms right now. But really, what good would come out of that conversation? It's clear that neither side has much respect for the other. However, what the WC has done is spark real campus conversation about the facts and severity of the case, placed in the context of broader misogyny. People are talking about why they believe this is wrong or right. This is how to affect real change-- to get people thinking.

  • Anonymous

    The first comment here is nonsense. In the past few months we have seen a number of incidents of racism, homophobia, and anti-religious bigotry, and all of them have been resolved by starting a greater campus conversation rather than a lawsuit. A similar outcome could have occurred here, but as the letter-writer correctly mentions, it has been cut off by the threat of a lawsuit.

    As a result, no one is talking about what the Zeta Psi pledges did, how bad it was, and whether or not it reflects a broader misogyny problem on campus or in society at large. Instead, we're talking about the merits of the lawsuit - or lack thereof, since it seems pretty clear that the WC doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. So the WC loses credibility campuswide with what is widely perceived as a serious overreaction, and the Zeta Psi pledges look like fools who are victims of a frivolous lawsuit instead of just looking like fools.

    This whole incident has been badly mishandled by the WC from the start. The outcome is bad for the WC (which loses credibility and a golden opportunity to be a positive force in a real, campuswide dialogue), bad for the broader campus atmosphere (with the WC trying to sell the idea that Yale is an especially misogynistic place, which as the letter-writer points out is frankly ridiculous), and especially bad for the broader community of women at Yale, who would have had a lot to gain from an honest, substantive discussion with their peers about these issues.

    The saddest part about this whole sorry episode is the major opportunity that has been lost. The WC could have become a real forum for a legitimate and important discussion about the role of sexism in our broader society and the inappropriateness of misogynistic jokes. Instead, their first response was, "lawyer up." I bet they thought that line sounded tough when someone first brought it up in a meeting - to the rest of us, it just sounds ridiculous.