Women’s Center, administrators discuss possible changes to harassment, rape policies

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Members of the Yale Women’s Center board of directors told the News late Thursday night that they will push the University to change some of its policies in order to address “fraternity-sponsored or enabled sexual harassment, assault and rape.”

In the wake of controversy over the appearance of a photograph in which students affiliated with the Zeta Psi fraternity are holding a sign reading “We Love Yale Sluts” in front of the Women’s Center, the directors met with Yale College Dean’s Office administrators Thursday morning to discuss the prospects of such changes. Members of Zeta Psi also met with administrators this week, but chapter president John Charest ’10 said no concrete plans have been nailed down since the fraternity issued a public apology, which was published in the News on Tuesday.

At a Wednesday afternoon meeting, members of the fraternity discussed how the organization could support the women at Yale.

Meanwhile, Women’s Center board members have indicated they may pursue legal action. More than 20 legal experts have offered aid to the center over the past week, said Chase Olivarius-McAllister ’09, the Center’s former political-action coordinator..

But directors were vague as to what exactly that legal action would entail. The directors said they are assessing whether to file a sexual harassment suit. Olivarius-McAllister hinted that the Center might pursue additional legal channels, but declined to elaborate further.

At the meeting with administrators, the Center requested that the University adopt a host of structural changes to address what it characterizes as fraternity-sponsored sexual harassment, assault and rape. Neither the Center’s directors nor administrators specified what possible changes were discussed.

Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who was among the administrators who met wtth the Women’s Center, neither confirmed nor denied that changes to University policy would go forward, but he said dialogue with the Center would continue.

“I think our conversations should continue,” he said. “There’s an opportunity here to look at the current structure and there are people who are willing to sit and look at things to see what’s possible.”

Zeta Psi national chapter Executive Director Dave Hunter said an investigation was underway, and that a representative from the national organization was on campus Thursday to talk with members of the fraternity. If the fraternity is found to be in violation of the national chapter’s risk-management policy – which expressly prohibits hazing and sexual assault – the fraternity could face a warning, a probationary period or suspension from the national organization. Hunter said the national disciplinary committee would meet this weekend to discuss courses of action, but that the process might take 30 to 60 days.

“We’re going to be deliberate,” he said, “Which means it might take some time.”

Head football coach Jack Siedlecki expressed his “extreme disappointment” before the entire Yale Football Team on Friday morning, Siedlecki said. Zeta Psi’s membership has traditionally drawn heavily from the team.

“While I respect their right to freedom of speech, I am extremely disappointed that such a stupid act was not questioned by someone in the group,” Siedlecki wrote in an e-mail to the News. “I would hope that the individuals involved have learned that their flippant lack of respect has harmed the image of several groups on campus. We are all going to have to work very hard to get that respect back.”

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