ExComm found rushes ‘not guilty’

Students affiliated with the Zeta Psi fraternity who were involved in January’s “Yale Sluts” incident stood before the Executive Committee of Yale College three weeks ago and were found “not guilty” on a charge of intimidation and harassment, sources close to the proceedings confirmed this weekend.

The group featured in the photograph that sparked the controversy faced a single charge of intimidation and harassment — coupled as one in accordance with ExComm policy — according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Committee proceedings are confidential and closed. The charge of intimidation and harassment does not include sexual harassment, a separate charge not brought against Zeta Psi.

University administrators associated with ExComm contacted for this story declined to comment, as did Zeta Psi chapter President Jon Charest ’10.

The findings mark the latest chapter of the months-long saga between the Yale Women’s Center and the fraternity. Shortly after midnight Jan. 16, rushes for the fraternity stood outside the center and photographed themselves holding a sign that read “We Love Yale Sluts.”

In interviews with the News later that week, Jessica Svendsen ’09 said she happened upon the group shortly after midnight and, feeling intimidated, chose to enter the Center from its rear door. The photograph, part of a scavenger hunt required to gain membership in the fraternity, was then posted to the Facebook profile of one of the pledges. When Center officials discovered the photo on the night of the 20th, they circulated the image in numerous e-mails that, within hours, found their way into students’ inboxes, with the subject line, “This Time We Sue.”

In a joint statement sent to the News on Sunday night, Yale Women’s Center board members expressed disappointment in the Executive Committee’s decision.

“The verdict of the Executive Committee, and the secrecy which conceals all of its proceedings, sends a devastating message to the women of Yale: that Yale’s disciplinary processes cannot be trusted to punish sexual harassment and intimidation of female students,” they wrote in the release.

“Jessica Svendsen filed a complaint to the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board; Dean Gentry brought her case to the Executive Committee under the lesser charge of intimidation and harassment. Unlike her harassers, she was denied the right to testify in person. Under Executive Committee procedure, she also lacks the right to appeal. We hope that ongoing initiatives by the Women’s Center and the administration will reform these processes and other undergraduate regulations, so that Yale may become a place where women’s freedom and safety are not qualified by existing procedures of ‘justice.’ ”

The Center’s initial e-mail threatened legal action but did not specify against whom. The Center then emphasized a willingness to work with members of the administration to address what they called “fraternity-sponsored or -enabled sexual harassment, assault and rape.”

In a 26-page report submitted to the administration by the Center’s directors in mid-February, the Center’s directors demanded “proper and expeditious disciplinary action” for Zeta Psi from the University, specifically by calling members of the fraternity before ExComm. In March, University administrators agreed to some of the Center’s demands, including the evaluation of extant sexual-harassment prevention policies, the examination of Yale College’s policies regarding “off-campus, residential student organizations including fraternities,” and the provision of additional physical and personnel support to the Center.

But the administrative response did not specifically mention Zeta Psi and whether its members would face disciplinary proceedings.

Svendsen has said in past interviews with the News that she felt intimidated by the group. That intimidation, the Center’s February report said, laid the groundwork for a complaint Svendsen filed that month with the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, along with a request for “the University to take proper and expeditious disciplinary action.”

Svendsen declined comment for this story but wrote a guest editorial in response to ExComm’s decision for this morning’s News.

“After a moment of hesitation, I recognized that their demeaning behavior towards the Yale Women’s Center could swiftly be redirected at me, as its living embodiment,” Svendsen wrote in the guest editorial about the night of Jan. 16. “I felt in danger; approaching them would undoubtedly result in verbal, if not physical, harassment.”

That night, Svendsen said she heard fraternity pledges shouting “Dick! Dick! Dick!” as she approached the Center’s front door, she told the News in an interview days after the incident occurred. In the following weeks, that allegation was answered by members of Zeta Psi who asserted Svendsen misheard them crying “DKE! DKE! DKE!,” the name of rival fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon.

As fallout from the incident grew, Zeta Psi’s international organization sent a representative to campus shortly following the incident to determine an appropriate course of action. International Zeta Psi Executive Director Dave Hunter told the News in February that the fraternity had convened a disciplinary committee to study the incident but that deliberations would take at least a month.

While Hunter did not answer messages left over the weekend, members of the fraternity said the international organization decided to let the University judge the case and handle all possible disciplinary action.

Comments

  • GSAS '10 (sciences)

    Shame on the Executive Committee and the entire Yale administration!

  • Hieronymus

    The ExComm need not find anyone guilty for a blanket of fear to fall upon the campus.

    Watch. Every. Word.

    Speak. With. Caution.

    Use. Approved. Speech. (Or reclaim some anti-heteronormative hermeneutical code for safety).

    Don't DARE suggest that freedom of speech is a value worth upholding; that campuses should be places of free and open inquiry, that some pigs are not better than some other pigs. Don't be a Larry Summers!

  • Anonymous

    They were certainly guilty of insulting the Women's Center (I mean seriously, anyone who puts up a sign saying "sluts" in front of a feminist center probably intends to offend), but not guilty of harrassment. They were shouting DKE, not dick. Unless they actually approached her and surrounded her, there seems to be no cause. It seems that Svendsen simply saw the group, got scared, and ran off.

  • antifeminist woman

    Congratulations, to the radical feminists of YWC who have put me in the rather uncomfortable position of siding with a bunch of drunken fraternity members engaging in mind numbing pranks.

    The fact is modern college campuses across this nation are decadent, hedonistic cesspools. Both the feminists and the fraternities contribute equally to the depraved climate of narcissism, moral relativism and nihilism.

  • Rudy

    The only reasonable demand of the Women's Center regarding the frat boys, that they be hauled in front of ExComm, was granted. To expect that a guilty verdict be preordained is quite a bit too much. I am glad that apparently a subjective standard, that a person subjectively "felt" intimidated, was not adopted.

  • anon

    No, no shame. There is only circumstantial evidence to support the claim that the perpetrators intimidated someone out of the WC. There is, on the other hand, verifiable (read: photographic) evidence that the fraternity brothers acted extremely immaturely…but that doesn't make a case on this count. Although, the WC promised to sue over this, but by now I'm sure they've realized what most of us knew from the start: they don't have a case.

    This whole situation was horrendously mismanaged on the part of the WC. Their victimhood should have increased general campus sympathy for the WC; instead, their incendiary manipulation of these circumstances has proven to be a shimmering disadvantage.

  • unanimous

    i think we all can agree that this decision is bullshit. this was a case of sexual harassment in the most blatant sense.

  • Recent Alum

    #1: Indeed, shame on the entire Yale administration for bringing this non-issue before the Executive Committee in the first place.

    When is the Executive Committee going to deal with the Aliza Schwartz issue (which one would think would be of far greater concern)???

  • Anonymous

    a bunch of jocks and wannabe tough guys get off.

    no surprise there.

  • Anonymous

    I doubt she was even there.

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to the Executive Committee and the entire Yale administration!

    … for placing this event in perspective to plagiarism, rape, and violence. What the pledges did was not right, but it did not warrant the punishments of ex-comm (probation, suspension, or expulsion).

    Worry not, The Women's Center will find something else to complain about excessively and expose themselves further as attention seeking whiners and irrational elitists.

  • ummm

    I think we can all agree that it sucks that we don't know the facts of the case. The womens center is definitely right when they call out excomm for its insane opacity.

    Since jessica can't appeal and the evidence/records will never be released, yale students will never be able to agree and form their own conclusions based on the full facts of the case.

  • Anonymous

    grow up

  • jen

    A victory for free speech. Glad to see it.

  • Hieronymus

    BTW, I have heard the word "sl*t" bandied about much in the same way as other highly (and more) pejorative terms within groups.

    Interestingly, Wikipedia is au courant:

    "… Slut has also been reclaimed as a slang term in the BDSM, polyamorous and gay and bisexual communities.[1] It may be used by the person concerned as an expression of pride in their status, or to express envy at the "success rate" of others.

    [In] the book 'The Ethical Slut,' the term has been reclaimed…: "a slut is a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you." (Easton, Dossie, & Catherine A. Liszt, The Ethical Slut, San Francisco 1997, p. 4, emphasis in original).

    The term has been "taken back" to express the rejection of the concept that government, society, or religion may judge or control one's personal liberties, and the right to control one's own sexuality.

    The term is also used (principally by women) to describe a woman dressed provocatively or a woman being overtly flirtatious."

    So, once again, SOME words can be used by SOME pigs but NOT by other pigs.

  • Rudy

    "i think we all can agree that this decision is bullshit. this was a case of sexual harassment in the most blatant sense."
    #7 it is evident from your comment that you don't know what real sexual harassment is. Maybe you can convince the law school librarian to refer you to some sources.

    #12--Like many others in the new behavior police movement, you have no concept of due process. An accuser does not have rights before a tribunal judging the conduct of the accused.

    If you think opacity is a bad idea for ExComm, would you be in favor of complete openness in cases of alleged sexual misconduct where an accuser's conduct leading up to an incident would also be exposed for everyone's examination/criticism/prurient interest?

  • Anonymous

    I imagine that, if a group of students assembled in front of a cultural house and staged a photograph with a sign with racist as opposed to sexist comments, the university would have reacted more harshly. I think those arguing over the legal definition of sexual harassment are missing the point: it is wrong to make sexist comments. Even if we choose to protect the right of free speech, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Women's Center is somehow crazy to be outraged by a direct expression of sexism. I also think the discussion of free speech surrounding this scandal has been completely exaggerated. "Yale sluts" is not some sort of political platform. It is not an argument or a substantive statement.. It is just derogatory hate speech. Protecting this type of speech really isn't that heroic, especially in the context of a university where behavior is routinely regulated in the interest of preserving common respect and decency. For example, if my roommate started regularly calling me a homo, I would tell my dean and my roommate would be punished. My dean would not cross his eyes and say "I'm sorry we have to protect your asshole homophobic roommate's right to free expression."

  • Ed Kent

    In my day ('56) a DKE member shared his distress with their pledge affair called Pig Night to which local highschool were invited (to a big Yale night) and then told to get lost at midnight because they were pigs. We editorialized against it, but the administration did nothing -- except threaten us with disloyalty to Yale.

  • Hmmmmm

    I wonder what Stephen Schmalhofer and David Silberstein, authors of "Get a clue, Ned, or just go home" have to say on this? In their, oh so impassioned, article they did remark on what they call a "campus climate": "Given the current campus climate toward offensive speech, it is surprising that Fulmer ignorantly buys into generalizations about student-athletes. We doubt that administrators at numerous New Haven elementary and middle schools would call us “disrespectful” or “disruptive.”" They cited a few example "jocks" as counters to a stereotype, offering there own stereotype of athletes as hardworking contributors.
    Finally they claimed: "someone needs to invite Ned Fulmer to a Yale Varsity Parents’ Tailgate, a Student-Athlete Community Outreach Event or an Alumni-Athlete Career Night so he can appreciate the diverse backgrounds of Yale athletes, who hail from every corner of the globe, inhabit every tax bracket, embrace every major and go on to achieve greatness in the name of Yale." Why not invite Ned instead along on rush "activities" for Zeta Psi?

    As Joyce Lin suggests in her guest column: "Before attacking athletes, get to know them" and as Kristin McCall emphasizes: "Yale’s athletes, both recruited and not, anything but ‘substandard’", indeed they are not being clearly up to par with athletes anywhere. This is, after all a time when as Brendan Woo of "‘Mindlessly transplanting’ stereotypes, Fulmer erred" notes "“tolerance” has become a campus buzzword."
    Come on you energetic promoters (perhaps column-writing dogpilers) of "understanding," let's herar your strong voices… Hello…anybody there… where'd you go so fast…

  • iuy65

    It is nice that that the PC Nazis are so predictable! The whiny victimization and witch hunt began so promptly!

    other question: Weren't these frosh drunk? isn't that a violation of Yale regs?

  • far away

    who's very influencial kid is in that "frat"?

  • Anonymous

    This is disgusting. Yale really is a boy's club. But what also is ridiculous is the reaction to this incident from the male students at Yale. Of course many of them don't think the incident constituted sexual harassment- we live in a culture where being sexist is the NORM. But here's my argument- women represent about 51% of the population. We are in a slight majority- so we don't really need the men on our side. There are enough of us so we just need to invade and take over the power structure. That is the only way we are gonna get rid of sexism. Women need to be in power. For those men who aren't with us- well just step out of the way because we will take the power from you. We know you won't give it up. In the words of Gloria Steinem: "power can never be given, it can only be taken."

  • Anonymous

    To publicly call Yale women sluts is demeaning, to do so in front of the place that, among other things, handles cases of rape and sexual abuse on campus is worse. The fact that people aren't willing to see this kind of concerns me. Probably it was just a prank that started out in good spirits and got out of hand, but that doesn't mean that the people involved shouldn't at least face some kind of discipline. Having the freedom to say what we believe is very important, but does anyone seriously believe that these men set out for the Women's Center intending to use their free speech to declare all Yale women sluts? Sexual harrassment is a crime, both on university campuses and in the real world. If these men called a woman a slut at work, for example, or in the press, they'd face disciplinary action. We don't really know what went on in these proceedings, but I would hope that, as a school, Yale would feel the need to teach both the men in question and all of the men and women on campus that using demeaning, sexual language to refer to women is sexual harrassment, and that sexual harrassment is wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I am curious as to whether the people on this comment blog (like Jen) who celebrate the exoneration of these frat boys as a victory for free speech then likewise support the ability of Aliza Schvartz to show her art- as that can also be seen as a clear issue of freedom of speech/expression?

  • Yale Man

    Anna S-

    The reason you are unable to "seize power" is that not all women in this country support your radical de-feminizing feminism.

    There are millions of content, happy, satisfied stay-at-home moms and women professionals who find your arguments less than empowering.

  • Yale Female 10

    Anna,

    You're being sexist too, don't you realize it? Sexism is asserting that one is superior over the other. This is why I don't support the YWC. They think women need to be superior to men. How about just accepting our genders and mutual respect instead of each other trying to assert superiority?

    I support Excomm's decision. The fraternity shouldn't have put up that sign, but Svendsen essentially has no case. All she did was see a large crowd and decided that was too frightening for her. I guess she doesn't go to spring fling or anything like that…

  • Anonymous

    Yale Man-

    If you really think that "there are millions of content, happy, satisfied stay-at-home moms and women professionals" you are completely out of touch. Try reading "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan. Every day I talk with women who deal with sexism and are sick of it. Most women don't like earning 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. In addition, 41 percent of women are their families’ sole source of income, which means there are a lot of single moms out there struggling to get by. Also, women, not men, make up the greatest percentage of people living in poverty in this country. The statistics don't back your idea that the majority of women in this country are happy and carefree.

  • Anonymous

    Yale Female 10-

    I never said that women were superior to men. I just said that women needed to gain access to power. For example, only 13% of our congresspeople are women. We are the underrepresented majority. I am saying that in order to get our fair share of the power, we will have to TAKE it because noone is just going to hand it over to us. I am a fan of Riane Eisler, who is an American scholar, who coined the term "gylany" for her vision of a society in which men and women were equal partners. Not a matriarchy. Not a patriachy. BUT, we don't currently have equal power- that is the problem!

  • Anonymous

    Equal is never good enough for anyone. Never has been, never will be.

  • yale '10

    In the words of the Rock: Yale Women's Center, know your role and shut your mouth!

  • Mike

    Anna S --

    You are really out of touch if you think reading The Feminine Mystique -- a book written in 1963 -- is going to do much enlightening. back then, women WERE housewives. Today, a whole bunch of men and women alike wish they could stay home with their kids instead of busting their asses multitasking 24/7. But hey, what do I know? I'm just out here in the real world. I knew so much more 30 years ago when I was at Yale.

  • Hieronymus

    To Anna S. # 28:

    "For example, only 13% of our congresspeople are women."

    Please fix that. No, really. If it bugs you, please run.

    Want more women scientists? Please become one. More Congresswomen? Please run for office. More women judges? Please attend law school.

    So: no, do not "shut up and know your role," but DO shut up and Just Do It!

  • Shhh!

    Oh TOO funny!

    Yale Man-

    If you really think that "there are millions of content, happy, satisfied stay-at-home moms and women professionals" you are completely out of touch.

    My wife was a reasonably powered professional consultant--is now a happy, satisfied, stay at home mom (just like MOST women in our affluent suburb).

    "Most women don't like earning 77 cents to every dollar earned by men."

    Controlling for applicable factors, the gender-wage gap is provably false. Want more money? Follow the money! Go be a mechanic, crab fisherman, oil derrick worker, plumber. The money is not there for home health workers or officeworkers… it's out in the North Sea (for example). Duh.

    More importantly, those "stay at home moms" have much higher incomes: I know my wife's income is 99.9% of $XXX,000 (i.e., my income minus my allowance; further, my income is high because she makes it so. Trust me--I would still be a bum if I didn't have a wife demanding I go out, make money, further my career, get edumacated, follow up, work, work, work! Gotta love her!).

    "In addition, 41 percent of women are their families’ sole source of income, which means there are a lot of single moms out there struggling to get by."

    Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Don't CHOOSE to be a single mom and then WHINE about the consequences of that choice (and don't lecture me about divorce: first off, most of the unwed mothers you cite were single to begin with; second, divorce is overwhelmingly initiated by women and NOT women from abusive households blah blah blah.)

    "Also, women, not men, make up the greatest percentage of people living in poverty in this country."

    Ain't Feminism grand? Reap what you sow.

    "The statistics don't back your idea that the majority of women in this country are happy and carefree."

    Mine is (and, yes, she refers to me as "her man," and we indeed view each other as property, i.e., we both 'belong' to the marital unit). Well, mostly--not QUITE care free. Chasing around after the young'uns, making sure they are properly educated and motivated is certainly NOT care free; however, she seems to consider preparing the next generation of citizens to have some IMPORTANCE. What a kook!

    So, this post is sure to elicit angry responses, but you will have to believe me when I tell you that these views are approved by my Finance and Social committees (i.e., my wife), who considers herself a REAL feminist (as opposed to a capital "F" Feminist) in that she does pretty much as she pleases (whereas I am strapped to a machine and forced to work, work, work).

    What a country!

  • yale alum

    Ok, first off, to everyone hating on the Yale Women's Center: Are you serious?? That organization exists for a very valid reason- to level the playing field between men and women in the workplace, world, life, etc.

    They are not trying to make women MORE powerful, they're just trying to make things more equal. DUH.

    Second, it's a long known fact that women are not treated equally in our society and if you don't know this or are in denial (as a few people have commented) you are a FOOL.

    Any intro to sociology class will teach you about the glass ceiling that women have and that men don't.
    Women are penalized more when they take time off for motherhood. Women have to work 10x harder to advance in the workplace and get promotions, men don't.

    It's NOT as easy as just go DO it. One commenter said, 'just go to law school. go be that congresswoman, etc etc.'

    It's not that simple. I'm not saying it's the same as the inequality in race and the discrimination that people of color have faced, but would you tell a black person right after the civil rights movement, 'just go run for office (any political office), or just go apply to harvard law school.

    it's so much easier for men to attain certain titles, get into certain schools, and professions simply because they're MALE. I'm not whining, I'm just telling it like it is.

    Looking at History:
    Women had to fight to earn the right to vote.
    Women were not encouraged to go to college. Their role was domesticated.
    (A commenter suggested that people today would LOVE to stay home with their kids- moms and dads alike. This is not the argument. The argument we're making is whether or not there is a disadvantage to a working mom that is greater than any disadvantage to a working dad.)

    When a dad leaves work early to attend his sons football game, he's perceived as being a great father.
    When a mom comes in a little late because her son was sick in the morning, she's looked down up as being irresponsible. These perceptions are true. They've been studied and researched and appear in published articles.

    All I'm saying is that the inequality is real and it's really a shame when people refuse to acknowledge it exists.

  • y11

    I cannot believe that there is opposition, especially here at Yale, to what the YWC stands for. I cannot believe that people think what the frat did was actually acceptable.

    I am absolutely disgusted.

  • Anonymous

    There is a vast difference between finding what they did unacceptable and thinking that they should be punished by ExComm for it. Do recall that ExComm hands out punishments of suspension and expulsion, not mandatory community service or somesuch.

  • woot

    I don't really like how this whole zeta psi thing has made all fraternities look bad. Zeta, second only to DKE, is one of the worst frats to represent Yale fraternity life.

  • yaaaylie

    The ExCom's decision was excellent.

  • Content, happy mom

    Anna,

    It may disappoint the radfems to know that a majoriy of women prefer NOT to be in powerful or demanding positions. That is why their aren't many of us in those jobs. I have a master's degree in computer science and NO desire to have a 'career'. Marriage and motherhood is the role many(possibly most?) women find rewarding.

    40 years of social engineering cannot reprogram our biology. Fact is, gender differences are innate and not a matter of social conditioning.

    Friedan was a whiner, she spoke for spoiled, pampered narcissists, not oridinary women. Her book is unscientific and hardly a true reflect of the lives of most women. It is simply communist propaganda to get women to behave like androgenous worker drones.

    All you statistics about the rotten lot in life of some women ignore that woman sometimes are solely responsible for their lot in life. Sometimes they make very poor choices (gettijng pregnany outside of marriage isa recipe for poverty and entirely avoidable.) Men are not the sole cause of women's problems!

  • Rudy

    Ick, #39, you sound like Phyllis Schlafly. The point of feminism to me has been that women should have the CHOICE, depending on their talent and drive, to succeed in the work world or to be a stay at home mom, or to have kids and succeed in the work world. I'm glad your life choice has been fulfilling for you. Don't try to say women who make different choices are fighting against their innate purpose in life. Well, I guess you can say it but the rest of us can say you're full of baloney.

    The better argument against Anna's women's power movement is that one doesn't have to have a woman congressperson to have one's interests as women to be well represented. Congress does not have to be split 50/50 on gender to be in favor of equal treatment for women under the law.

  • Anonymous

    From the moment that lovely photo surfaced on Facebook several months ago, there have been two questions I have wanted to ask Zeta Psi’s supporters who have been defending them in the name of “freedom of speech.” Have any of these victimized and silenced young men come forward to describe how they are facing discrimination because they expressed their heartfelt belief that women who attend Yale are dirty and immoral, or prostitutes (the two actual definitions of a “slut”)? Of course not. This is not a case of freedom of speech. It’s a case of freedom to be an asshole and do something stupid. Please do not drivel on about the difficulties of living under a totalitarian regime like Yale University and its censorship police. Perhaps you could use your commitment to freedom of speech in order to defend those who have something to express. Secondly, I am curious how you would react if these same young men had gathered outside the Afro-American center holding a sign using the “N” word in a similar expression of affection. Have they been let off the hook because of their actions or because of their choice of words?

  • Fat Boy

    I think that Durfee's should expand and use some of that space that's being wasted right now, so that I can buy more chocolate-glazed donuts and watch the Lakers beat the crap out of everyone else. Oh and the WNBA is a joke. Why? Not because I hate women, but they just can't play as well. Fact is, women who are capable will be recognized. If you are just a whiny biatch, it doesn't matter what you have under the waist - you are still a whiny biatch.

  • Anonymous

    I am amazed at the number of these comments that just disgust me. It feels great to be a woman after reading this compilation.

  • Anonymous

    They took a picture of themselves in front of a building with a sign… they didn't hurt anyone or damage property. I'd think the proper response would be to organize students who are offended to protest the fraternity in order to shame them into some sort of concession. A lawsuit seems out of proportion.