In an effort to continue campus dialogue after the controversial Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge ritual Oct. 13, the Intercultural Affairs Council sponsored a panel of four professors from different fields to explore the incident from an academic point of view Tuesday night.
“Deconstructing the ‘DKE Incident’: How, Why, and What Next?,” also co-sponsored by the Yale College Dean’s Office and the Yale College Council, differed from first two forums on Yale’s sexual climate and focused on the sociological, psychological and legal ramifications of the episode. The event, however, had a low turnout: 50 people were present, compared to the approximately 150 who attended the first forum hosted by the Women’s Center Oct. 15. No male students contributed to the dialogue between professors and attendees, and only one DKE brother was present.
Travis Gidado ’12, co-chair of the panel discussion series for the Intercultural Affairs Council, said that despite the low turnout, the students present were engaged and participated in conversation with the faculty members on the panel. He added that the lack of male participation in asking questions was not symptomatic of a lack of opinion or interest.
The panel sought to provide explanations behind the actions of DKE during their inflammatory pledging process on Old Campus, where they chanted remarks such as “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f–k dead women” and “No means yes, yes means anal.”
The incident was a matter of personal responsibility, said Richard Bribiescas, a panel member and chair of the Anthropology Department, adding that it had little to do with stereotypical male behavior.
“This is not a ‘boys will be boys’ thing,” he said. “It’s offensive.”
Bribiescas said that the perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions, and he later condemned the chanting as an “act of dominance.”
Judith Resnik, the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at the Yale Law School, explained Yale’s approach to the DKE issue in terms of its code of conduct. She described Yale as a “deeply normative institution” that is clear in the way it wants its members to behave and interact, making reference to a 2001 Supreme Court decision against five Orthodox Jewish Yale students, who had sued the University because its policies requiring them to live in mixed-gender dormitories during their freshman and sophomore years violated their religious laws.
The panelists focused a significant portion of their discussion on fraternities and hazing, which Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology, called “self-segregating” and “isolating,” respectively.
In her opening remarks before the event, Yale College Dean Mary Miller reminded the audience that Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry had requested that the Executive Committee investigate the full course of events during the DKE incident, and look into the incidence of hazing, threats, intimidation and harassment among student organizations at Yale. Gentry, who attended the panel, declined to comment for this article.
In an interview after the talk, Miller said that examining undergraduate groups’ initiation practices is “high on [her] agenda” since the DKE’s recent pledge ritual had raised a slew of questions about such traditions elsewhere on campus.
Three students interviewed said the panel was a necessary follow-up to dialogue sparked by the DKE incident.
“I hope we can move forward in this conversation while still continuing to engage more people,” Rebecca Suldan ’13 said.
A committee convened by Miller will begin to examine initiation rituals in student organizations this spring. The committee’s chair is Judith Krauss, master of Silliman College and chair of the Faculty Committee on Athletics.