Officials consider W. Center demands

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

After meeting with the Women’s Center’s board members Friday, University administrators said they would work with the group to address the demands outlined in its 26-page report drafted following the surfacing of last month’s “We Love Yale Sluts” photograph. But they requested that the Center “be reasonable” about its March 7 deadline for progress.

The Women’s Center threatened legal action last month as the picture — which depicted 12 students associated with the Zeta Psi fraternity holding the “Yale Sluts” sign in front of the Center — widely circulated among the student body. As a response, the Center presented the administration with the report ten days ago, calling for an overhaul of the University’s sexual-harassment and assault education policies, increased regulation of fraternities, disciplinary action against the Zeta Psi fraternity members and greater resources for the Center.

“I think by March 7 we can issue a progress report with what we have learned and, specifically, what information is still needed in order to make commitments of resources and change programs,” said Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, who was present at Friday’s meeting. “I think everyone [at the meeting] understood that … making good decisions that require input from multiple parties would take longer.”

But Salovey said the University’s response will amount to “much more than lip service.”

The Center’s report urges the University to mandate that fraternities register with the Yale College Dean’s Office, a move that would allow for their regulation and censuring following incidents of “collective malfeasance.” It also asked for pay for the group’s student staffers and the creation of a position for an assistant dean who would focus specifically on women’s issues.

While continuing to focus efforts on discussion with the administration, the Center has also organized a “residence group” that board members say will explore alternative means of addressing the incident, including legal action or increased pressure through national media attention. The group will also serve as a communications tool, facilitating discussion and dialogue between the University, the Center and students supportive of its efforts.

Moving forward, Salovey said he wants to collaborate with the Center to achieve similar goals, including “a robust Women’s Center, a safe campus and a Yale where we can work together to prevent problems such as sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

If fraternities are required to register with the University, individuals affiliated with the organizations will be discouraged from blindly following orders or succumbing to group pressure, said Kathryn Olivarius ’11, the Women’s Center constituency coordinator.

“We don’t think that on their own these boys would take these kind of misogynistic stances,” Olivarius said. “It’s a part of this larger, anonymity-based system.”

One proposal met with enthusiasm by administrators was a suggestion to mail out letters to incoming freshmen detailing the University’s hands-off stance toward fraternities. Enclosed in the Center’s report to the University was a copy of a letter Princeton University sends to all incoming freshmen that opens with the words, “Princeton does not officially recognize fraternities and sororities because we do not believe that, in general, they contribute in positive ways to the overall residential experience on campus.”

Salovey and Center board members interviewed declined to offer specifics on potential University action upon other proposals contained in the report, including the Center’s calls for official fraternity recognition and regulation.

After rebuffing an apology from the Zeta Psi in the week following the discovery of the photograph, the Center’s board members embarked on their ongoing quest to end the “fraternity-sponsored or enabled sexual harassment, assault and rape” that they say they have observed on campus.

But not everyone in Yale’s community supports the Center’s singling out of fraternities and use of the word “rape.”

“[Rape] is an extremely strong word that can ruin a person’s life with a simple accusation, even if the person is completely innocent,” said one fraternity member who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter. “The idea that fraternities sponsor [sexual harassment, assault, or rape] is ridiculous. These women should be focusing on the real problems that face women, not just a tasteless picture with a tasteless phrase.”

Others, still, have sided with the Center. Board members said in the weeks since the incident, they have received hundreds of letters of support from students, alumni and faculty at Yale and colleges across the country.

And interviews on campus revealed a wide range of student opinions — all of which have contributed to the buzz surrounding the incident since it took place in January. Andrew Kurzrok ’11 cautioned against reducing the issue into a simple dichotomy and said, while he thinks something should be done to address the issue, he believes the Center was “too quick on the trigger” in threatening legal action.

Reflecting the sentiment of many of those interviewed, Anne Carney ’09 said she found the actions of Zeta Psi offensive. She said she believes “no one didn’t find it offensive.” And Rebecca Stern ’11 applauded the Center’s efforts, declaring that “something has to change.”

But some students, like Aneesh Raghunandan ’11, said the Center has gone too far, blowing the incident out of proportion and using it as a launching pad for pushing through its reform agenda.

Jon Charest ’10, president of Zeta Psi’s Yale chapter, wrote in an e-mail that there has still been no direct contact between the Center and Zeta Psi, but declined further comment.

In addition to Salovey, administrators at Friday’s meeting included Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, Assistant to the President Nina Glickson and Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Judith Chevalier.

—Martine Powers contributed reporting.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    im not sure how good an idea it would be to have an office for fraternities, in effect making fraternities a part of yale. not a good idea at all. gives legitimacy to frats. the residential colleges are suppose to foster whatever it is frats claim they foster- a sense of community, a channel for community involvement, socialization, a place for the development of leadership skills, etc- but in a more inclusive way. you dont need to pledge to belong to a college. i like the princeton letter. frats are not and cant be an official part of yale. there should be a blanket, over arching statement on harassment and cases should be dealt with individually.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. The WC still hasn't contacted Zeta Psi. Perhaps they just don't want to admit that they are playing on stereotypes of frats and want to eliminate frats.

  • Anonymous

    The WC is fighting the symptoms and not the cause of the disease. They are silent about Yale's promoting and legitimizing pornography on campus, while wasting a huge amount of time and effort carrying out a vendetta against frats.

  • alumni

    is there a way to view the entire report sent to the administration?

    i think publicly posting it through the YDN would truly be helpful and transparent, something everyone enjoys. after all, this 10pg report is supposed to affect a lot of groups on campus, not just the women's center and the administration.

    keep the dialogue open.

  • Anonymous

    I love it. "A group of Yale frat guys took a tasteless picture in front of the Women's Center holding a piece of paper with an offensive phrase on it. Therefore, Yale ought to give the Women's Center more funding." If I'm upset because my IM team lost, will Yale buy me a new car?

  • Anonymous

    Can we just get it straight that these guys DID NOT rape anyone nor mention rape in the first place?

  • Anonymous

    can't speak for the zeta psi guys or even that particular fraternity, but it's no secret that many parties serve punch with either grain or roofies. i can't tell you how many parties (je sextet, sigma nu, sae) that i've been to where girls aren't allowed to drink the beer and guys aren't allowed to drink the punch. this is what sponsoring rape means, people!

  • Anonymous

    "But some students, like Aneesh Raghunandan ’11, said the Center has gone too far, blowing the incident out of proportion and using it as a launching pad for pushing through its reform agenda."
    Aneesh got it right. The students involved need to get an appropriate punishment (training, plus community service doing unpleasant work for a women's group would be good). Using the immaturity of a bunch of perhaps tipsy or worse 18-19 year olds (hey, didn't we all do some pretty stupid stuff at that age??) as a grounds to require Yale to regulate frats or give the WC $ is way overboard (especially the latter).
    Yale, please punish the young men involved, but don't let a group pressure you into a broader reaction by a group that is trying to use the immaturity of a some 18-19 year olds as a way to push its own agenda.

  • KT

    @ #7: As a JE junior who has attended pretty much every party thrown in the Sextet (or by the seniors who are acting as it this year in Swing Space), I can say that I have never seen a girl told she couldn't have a beer instead of punch and I have certainly never heard of anyone complaining of being roofied there. Do you really think campus fraternities have some secret source of rohypnol? I would agree that grain is far more potent and dangerous than most people realize, and if I remember correctly, this is addressed during freshman orientation activities, although, unfortunately, there's no way for students to really find this out until after they've drank it. Also, while I don't know the intentions of frat brothers when they're planning a party, I know that grain is often used because it is cheap and gets people drunk quick, which is many partygoers goal for the night. A side effect of this is weakened inhibitions, which could be what the frats are seeking, but I wouldn't make a blanket allegation of this without concrete proof.

  • Anonymous

    If there was a party where all the punch was roofied, wouldn't that be kind of obvious, what with every girl there passing out?

  • Hieronymus

    Not sure what happened to my post: will try again.

    To #7: Which is it: are you an accessory to a CRIME (wherein you had suspicions and circumstantial evidence of date-rape drug use but did NOTHING) or are you now engaged in LIBEL?

    Just wondering.

  • Anonymous

    What a load of bull. I've gone to frat parties and not drunk anything. You only drink if you want to. No one's making you and frat boys will back off if you slap them for groping (seriously). They respect boundaries more than the YWC acknowledges.

  • Anonymous

    @ #9: sorry to accuse the sextet as a whole-- i understand it changes from year to year-- but know of very specific example where guys were not permitted to drink punch which turned out to be roofied.

    @ 11: VICTIM of a crime, ever think of that?

  • Anonymous

    "No one didn’t find it offensive."

    I'm a woman and I didn't find it offensive. I thought it was a crass joke, but a funny one nevertheless. I thought it was a clever play on both the macho frat boy and the shrill feminist stereotypes. Whatever happened to our sense of humor?

    I agree with #5. Aneesh got it right. The WC needs to calm down and stop abusing the sensitivity of the issue and the natural sympathy they enjoy. Yale can punish the students moderately, but reform is a ridiculous overreaction.

    Oh, and all the conspiracy theories that are floating around about frats systematically abusing (freshman) girls need to be thrown aside NOW. Freshman girls can be stupid and naive, but that's nobody's fault but their own. If we want to shelter our students, we might as well bring their parents to live with them and watch over every detail of their lives.

    Please, please, Yale women, stop being so spoiled. You're embarrassing me.