In a statement posted on their website Sunday night, Delta Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity Board of Directors instructed the Yale chapter of DKE to stop all pledge activities until further notice in the wake of their controversial chants on Old Campus last Wednesday.
The statement comes on the heels of a forum Friday afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall titled “Forum on Yale’s Sexual Climate” at which Yale administrators and current members of the Women’s Center board said DKE’s apology Thursday is the first step in a long process of dialogue and systemic change. The forum attracted an audience of about 150, which split up into 15 smaller “breakout” sessions to discuss the DKE incident and possible courses of action. To help determine “a plan of action for the chapter,” DKE Executive Director Doug Lanpher will visit Yale this weekend to discuss the pledge incident with the fraternity. In an e-mail to the News, Lanpher said that DKE national’s intervention means that the Yale chapter cannot accept new pledges and that it must cease all initiation activities.
DKE International also commended the forum in its statement as “a good step in acknowledging the seriousness of this incident,” as did Yale College Dean Mary Miller GRD ’81 in her opening remarks at the forum.
“I think by coming here today, you are saying that this is the ignorant speech we all seem to get beyond,” Miller said.
Melanie Boyd ’90, director of undergraduate studies for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and special adviser on gender issues for both the Women’s Center and the Dean’s Office, helped organize this event. Boyd said the event was successful in bringing students from different backgrounds together in a serious conversation about the incident.
Boyd also took part in a breakout session with about 15 Yale administrators, including residential college deans and masters and members of the Dean’s Office. Their discussion, Boyd said, focused on developing strategies to combat sexual misconduct and how to respond to episodes such as DKE’s inflammatory pledge ritual, where they chanted lyrics condemned as sexually violent and misogynistic by the Women’s Center and members of the Yale community.
Six members of DKE could not be reached for comment Sunday, while DKE President Jordan Forney ’11 referred the News back to DKE International’s statement in an e-mail Sunday night. In a speech at the panel Friday, Forney acknowledged that DKE’s actions were inappropriate and referred to the event as “a serious lapse of judgment.” At an initiation event on Old Campus last Thursday, blindfolded DKE pledges shouted phrases such as “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f— dead women.”
“The incident was not only offensive but it was completely uncalled for and unacceptable,” he said, insisting that the episode was not representative of DKE or its brothers.
Opinions from past and present members of the Women’s Center board on how to interpret the fraternity’s apology vary.
Chase Olivarius-McAllister ’10, former political action coordinator for the Women’s Center, said in an e-mail Sunday that DKE’s apology is “pathetic” and that DKE has always been a “male-supremacist” organization.
“It is a matter of months before they vacuum other young boys into their misogynist ponzi scheme,” she added.
In an official statement sent to the News Saturday, current members of the Women’s Center board said DKE’s apology “can only be the beginning of their efforts” to create what the fraternity called “positive and meaningful” change in a Friday opinion column in the News.
Reactions around campus regarding the DKE’s apology were similarly mixed.
Ajla Porca ’14 said she was not offended by the chant, adding that she thought the only reason DKE apologized was because they were criticized for their actions.
But Undergraduate Organizing Committee member Katie Harrison ’11 said the incident reinforces her feeling that many students are “going along with things that they don’t believe in and wouldn’t do on their own.” Three other students echoed this view, saying that the DKE pledge ritual forced students to say things that they would not say on their own. Still, Harrison said she appreciated the fraternity’s apology.
Six out of 11 students interviewed said they were offended by the DKE pledges’ chant. Three other students said they thought DKE pledges were wrong in their actions, but added that they were not offended.
According to a poll on the News’ website, 71 percent of 397 users said they were offended by DKE’s actions as of press time.
Three upperclassmen recalled the January 2008 incident in which Zeta Psi fraternity pledges held a sign that read “We Love Yale Sluts” outside the Women’s Center. In light of the Zeta Psi episode, Harrison said she perceived the DKE chant as an “intentional provocation.” She added that she was particularly offended by the violence that she said the chants seemed to celebrate.
Will Feldman ’14 said that, while the pledges were wrong to say what they said, he would have ignored them if he had walked by the chant.
“People like to overreact to things like this, but it’s not a big deal,” Feldman said. “The point was for them to act like jackasses.”
It is unclear if individuals implicated in the chanting will face discipline. In her letter, Miller said such matters are confidential at Yale as required by University regulations and federal law. Boyd said she expects disciplinary action to remain a subject of interest to the Yale community in coming weeks.
“I wouldn’t say the question of disciplinary action has disappeared from the conversation,” Boyd said.
Since the forum, the Women’s Center said the fraternity has committed to work with them in the future, and will send some of their brothers to a Women’s Center workshop on sexual violence next month. Their respective boards will meet later this week to make further plans. Together with the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the Women’s Center will also hold a sexual violence workshop Nov. 14, which was in the works before the DKE incident took place.
The first DKE chapter was founded in 1844 at Yale College, and it is the only fraternity on campus that has never gone inactive.