DKE apologizes for pledge chants

After the campus outcry sparked by Delta Kappa Epsilon’s inflammatory pledge ritual on Old Campus Wednesday night, the fraternity apologized to the Yale Women’s Center in a meeting in Linsly-Chittenden Hall Thursday night.

After the meeting, attended by four DKE brothers and five Women’s Center board members, both parties expressed optimism that they could construct a “productive relationship” in the future. Also present at the meeting was Melanie Boyd ’90, director of undergraduate studies for Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and special adviser to both the Center and the Dean of Yale College on Gender Issues.

In the wake of the incident, fraternities Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon condemned DKE’s actions and supported the Women’s Center’s Thursday announcement that it would hold a forum about the incident Friday. Members of DKE, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry have said they will attend the forum, the Women’s Center said.

At their pledge initiation on Old Campus, DKE members shouted phrases such as “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f— dead women.” Some of the students were blindfolded and being led in a line with their hands on each others’ shoulders.

In an e-mail to the News Thursday, DKE President Jordan Forney ’11 called the pledge chants “inappropriate, disrespectful, and very hurtful to others.”

“It was a serious lapse in judgement by the fraternity and in very poor taste,” he said, adding that DKE does not condone sexual violence.

The Women’s Center deemed the actions “hate speech” and “an active call for sexual violence” in an e-mail to the News Wednesday night. The Center sent out e-mails condemning the incident to the panlists of organizations including some of Yale’s sororities, Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trip leaders, Yale Hillel, and MECha, the Chicano student organization. Within hours, accounts of the event were circulating throughout the undergraduate community.

Business Coordinator Elizabeth Deutsch ’11 said the Women’s Center sees its role now as helping to bring people together to discuss this issue and figure out how to move forward. She said the organization does not want to be antagonistic and wants to collaborate with DKE and others to help make Yale’s sexual culture more respectful. She said the Center wants to make Yale a place where people think about their language and actions to prevent future incidents.

The Women’s Center compared Wednesday’s events to an incident in January 2008 when 12 Zeta Psi pledges stood outside the Center holding signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts.”

Kathryn Olivarius ’11, who served on the Women’s Center board in 2008-09, said that sexist incidents, including the “no means yes” chant, have happened before at Yale. She said these types of incidents tend to repeat themselves every year or two since there is not enough education about sexism and other prejudices at Yale and there is little memory for these things.

But Deutsch said she thinks Yale culture has changed since the Zeta debacle.

“I think that the fact that the e-mail and the video went viral last night shows the campus is at a different place,” she said. “There seems to be a broad consensus that this is unacceptable.”

When William Bradley ’12, president of SAE, heard of the event Wednesday night, he contacted the Women’s Center and the Pi Beta Phi sorority to express his regrets about the incident and apologize on behalf of SAE.

But Bradley referred to the pledge’s chanting of “SAE” during their initiation as part of the good-natured rivalry between the two frats and “friendly banter.” President of Sigma Nu Matt Chesky ’12 said he thought despite the campus reaction, DKE did not intend to offend anyone.

James Berry ’12, president of SigEp, said he did not see the issues of sexism and sexual violence as limited to Greek life at Yale, but rather as a larger issue that is not talked about enough.

Harry McNamara ’11, president of Sigma Chi, and Bill Toth ’11, president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, declined to comment on the incident.

Miller also called the incident an opportunity for discussion and education.

Although she said DKE’s chants were “appalling,” she added that she was happy to have been asked to lead the panel at the forum.

The deans and masters of Davenport, Calhoun and Pierson colleges also sent out e-mails to their students, and offered opportunities for students to discuss the issue.

“The plain fact is that in 2010 it is time to question some aspects of activity that HAVE NO PLACE at Pierson and at Yale,” the e-mail to Piersonites said. “Pledging to a fraternity gives nobody the right to hurt or verbally assault a single Piersonite.”

The “Forum on Yale’s Sexual Climate” will take place today at 1:00 p.m. in LC room 102.

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