After ‘Yale Sluts’, a possibility for reform

The Yale Women’s Center’s 26 pages of demands in response to the “We Love Yale Sluts” Zeta Psi rush photograph, released last week to administrators, represents the first positive step forward in this matter. Although its demands should not be categorically accepted, the document does contain constructive suggestions for much-needed reform.

The report begins with a harsh claim. “Misogyny is pervasive in fraternity culture at Yale,” the Center’s board members write. “Fraternity parties with sexist themes are a fixture of undergraduate life,” they add, and dress codes at the events “exclusively encourage women [particularly freshmen] to dress in a sexualized way.”

Although their assertions cannot be applied unilaterally, the Center’s fundamental thesis is correct. The names of the parties — “CEOs and Corporate Hoes,” “Pound” — are telling enough.

But individual fraternity leaders and not “collective discipline” or University recognition of fraternities, as the report demands, should tackle matters like these. Collective discipline is patently antithetical to parity and justice; if anything, formal recognition of fraternities would lead to backlash and resentment, not self-motivated desire to foster less sexist atmospheres at parties. More importantly, the Women’s Center’s arguments can be offensive to women. Although you wouldn’t know it from reading the report, women at Yale, like men, are capable of taking responsibility for where they spend their weekend nights, what they drink and how they behave.

But the University does have a role here, as the Center wisely points out: to establish more transparency — the number and nature of sexual-assault cases to come before ExComm is not as transparent as it should be — and to design a comprehensive sexual-harassment prevention program.

An effective program would present real student stories — with names and details changed, of course — of actual victims on campus so as to make students aware, from day one, that harassment and worse actually does happen here. And we agree with the Women’s Center that “small, single-sex, discussion-oriented groups [led] by a trained individual” would make for better forums.

In its report, the Women’s Center devoted one section to the Zeta Psi incident specifically, condemning the University for not recognizing that the students’ posing constituted sexual harassment under the undergraduate regulation that bans conduct having the effect of “creating an intimidating or hostile academic or work environment.”

But for the sake of not undermining its own argument that sexual harassment is more pervasive than any photograph or single incident can convey, the Women’s Center should accept Zeta Psi’s apology, drop the possibility of a lawsuit and genuinely work with the rest of the student community to achieve its many reasonable and necessary reforms.

The Women’s Center’s final point calls for the University to direct more resources to its organization. With the exception of creating an assistant dean for women — the female population, after all, is not a minority here — we endorse this particular request fully. It is sad that for all the University’s riches, it has not, on its own accord, provided the Center with a full-time staff and director, a space more comfortable than the basement of Durfee’s — and a bathroom, which the Center currently lacks.

The details are one thing. But at the end of the day, the larger question raised by the report is this: To what extent should the administration be involved in regulating and preventing the misogyny that creeps onto campus?

In short, Yale should bolster institutional resources supportive of women and strengthen its sexual-harassment education and reporting policy for 2008.

Administrators, however, need not regulate fraternities or render more non-gender-neutral speech as harassment. Doing so could have unintended consequences, such as provoking campus resistance to the litany of otherwise sensible reforms or chilling speech. Our community is stronger when ideas, however uncomfortable, are exchanged freely — and without the threat of punishment.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I never thought I'd say this, but WELL DONE YDN EDITORIAL BOARD! This is an eminently reasonable and constructive piece. More importantly, it clearly articulates how the university can more fully support women without restricting free speech and without resorting to the insulting and degrading view of women that suggests they are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions. It may have taken a couple of weeks, but finally a reasonable voice entered the debate over this incident. Well done.

  • Anonymous

    I do hope the Yale Women center looks beyond the Yale Campus. I think the University owes every woman that is a student at Quinnipiac an apology for the SLUT BUS remarks.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree with poster #1. I am a regular basher of the YDN, and for good reason too, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and this editorial is probably the best piece of writing in the paper since the beginning of the term, if not since the beginning of Mangino's reign.

  • Anonymous

    About time. Only wish this type of response was given last semester/every year prior. But better late than never - good job.

  • Anonymous

    What would our campus do without the wisdom of Andrew Mangino?

  • Anonymous

    I remember going to some parties with themes like that. Of course, Champagne Schoolgirls was in Branford. And Exotic Erotic was in TD, and don't forget the Corporate one was in Calhoun. Clearly though, the fraternities at Yale had a hand in planning these devious and pervasive events, with the advertising on Old Campus just waiting for freshmen girls.

  • Anonymous

    It must be restated: THE WISDOM OF ANDREW MANGINO IS SIMPLY TOO AWESOME, TOO GREAT, TOO INTEGRAL to be contained to the NEWS VIEW. PLEASE, MAN, PLEASE APPLY TO THE WOMEN'S CENTER BOARD. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THINK OF THE GREATER GOOD.

  • Anonymous

    Really, Chase? Are you so devoid of intellectual honesty that when you can't make a reasoned argument about or against parts of Mangino's piece, you just resort to adolescent mockery? Why don't you actually engage with the piece instead of this sarcastic nonsense that only continues your pattern of disrespect towards the opinions of your fellow students?

    Christ, no wonder the Women's Center is in such a bad place right now.

  • ovid

    everything is just more fun when you are chase olivarius-mcallister.

  • Anonymous

    My good man,

    It is not that I cannot.

    It is that I choose not to.

    With gravity,
    Chase Olivarius-McAllister
    Branford '09

  • DF

    please, someone, hire chase to comment on this website. she is a franchise waiting to happen. i mean, the girl is genius. an absolute genius. for the last week, my roommate and i have trolled through all the articles to see which ones she has zinged and the hysterical reactions she always provokes from people who just don't get it.

  • Anonymous

    someone needs to take the shovel out of chase's hands.

  • Anonymous

    Nah, it's more amusing this way.

  • Don Mei

    Wow - I am so completely impressed with the Yale Daily News. I did not expect such balanced piece. Thank you.

    With respect to the Womens Center, well, they've revealed themselves to be what they are.

    Aparently they believe that the First Amendment is not that important. That a brief moment in time while a photo is snapped represents a hostile academic environment.

    Unfortunately the Womens Center's views are typical of what modern "feminism" has become.

    Modern feminism is not at all about standing up for "normal, heterosexual" women in the workplace or at home.

    It is about a militant position that men are inherently evil. That the only use for men is as sperm donors. In summary, most modern femenists would rather men did not exist at all.

    Strange . . . I wonder if the Yale Mens Center would stand a chance. There we could attend seminars about how to rip yourself from the enslavement of women. Hmm. Women, they're just a womb for (hopefully) our sons. Yeah that would fly.

    Look in the mirror womyn (thats how they spell it, cant be a derivitive of "man") and see yourselves for what you are. Fascist haters.

    Don Mei
    p.s. To all those women who still consider femenism to be about equal pay for equal work, respect, etc. I apologize to you in advance. But unfortunately, modern feminism has gone far beyond your definition.