Yale Police Department investigates Pundit party

The Yale Police Department has opened an investigation into events surrounding a Feb. 19 pre-tap naked party held by the Pundits, Yale’s senior prank society.

The YPD opened an investigation into the Pundits’ party after several attendees were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, police and student sources indicated. Amid heightened sensitivity to issues of hazing and excessive drinking within student organizations, the incident has caught the attention of the uppermost levels of the Yale administration.

At least one student interviewed by the YPD mentioned a possible sexual assault at the party prompting detectives to investigate the report. Though the YPD is not allowed to release more details of the investigation as no criminal complaint has officially been filed, department Chief Ronnell Higgins sent an e-mail to the student body Monday night warning of a “possible sexual assault involving Yale undergraduates that occurred at an off campus party on 2/19.”

“The Yale Police have an active investigation underway,” Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner said in an e-mail to the News on Tuesday. “But I assure you that Yale has no tolerance for sexual intimidation or assault.” She confirmed student reports that the YPD has opened an investigation into “events surrounding” a party at the same off-campus location on the same night of the Pundits’ party, but she would not confirm the name of the group.

About 50 people attended the party, which was by invitation only and hosted by the Pundits, multiple attendees said. They added that students were told to arrive at the party in costume, but midway through the night were told to disrobe. In addition, attendees told the News that the party was part of the society’s tap process and took place at an off-campus home on Park Street.

As a result of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity incident in October, the Yale College Dean’s office is examining what constitutes hazing and its role in student organizations, including fraternities and senior societies. Accounts from some attendees alleged that members of the Pundits forced heavy drinking by creating an atmosphere in which prospective members sought to impress the organization and receive a tap.

“I am deeply disturbed by initial reports of heavy drinking by underage students in a context that could be construed as hazing,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an e-mail Wednesday night. “Yale College does not tolerate hazing or intimidation: I’m well aware that a feature of hazing is that it can be difficult for someone victimized by it to come forward.”

She encouraged all with information about the party to share it with their residential college master or dean, adding that her office will provide special arrangements over spring break to do so.

In addition to the ongoing police investigation and Miller’s efforts, word of the party reached members of the Yale Corporation during their previously scheduled February meeting last weekend, University President Richard Levin said. He described the Corporation’s discussion of the events as “informal.”

Fifteen attendees of the party, who only spoke with the News on the condition of anonymity, provided conflicting accounts of the evening.

Multiple students alleged attendees complied with the Pundits’ requests because of the pressures of the pre-tap process.

“The biggest problem, and what was dis-inhibiting people, was that they were force-feeding people alcohol and they couldn’t say no because of the power dynamic,” one student said.

Another student who spoke with the News was sent to Yale-New Haven Hospital following what the student described as forced, heavy drinking at the party. The student’s residential college dean told the student that four other attendees were sent to Yale-New Haven Hospital and six others to Yale Health, the student said. (The student spoke to the News on the condition gender not be revealed).

This student said the YPD reached out as part of a preliminary investigation into the party, and added that the police planned to speak with at least 16 students — those who came forward to aid the investigation or received medical attention.

The YPD investigator asked unprompted whether sexual misconduct occurred at the party, according to the student that was sent to the hospital. The student recalled for the investigator witnessing a member of the Pundits forcing attendees to kiss each other and that a Pundit forced a male friend’s face onto another’s penis.

A representative from the Pundits said that members would not comment for this story.

Several attendees recalled seeing forced kissing, but they added they did not witness anything they considered as serious as forced oral sex.

Despite the Yale College Dean’s office’s concern that conduct at the party constitutes hazing, several attendees interviewed were not surprised by the evening’s events.

“I was in the main room and the kitchen and hallways, and I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary or anything abusive,” said one junior who attended the party. “Obviously it’s a Pundits party so it’s rowdy by nature, but other than that I didn’t see anything [resembling sexual assault] go down. I was pretty shocked to hear about [those allegations] the next day.”

Still, given that the YPD has been informed of a potential sexual assault, it is obligated by law to investigate for possible criminal charges.

“We take all allegations of criminal acts very seriously and investigate them to the fullest extent,” Higgins told the News in response to questions about the Pundits’ party investigation.

David Burt contributed reporting.

Comments

  • Jaymin

    How in the world do you avoid assaulting someone sexually at a naked party?

  • TruthWithout

    How in the world does somebody write an article that does not have one single fact in it? It is actually quite impressive.

  • eli1

    Funny how there is such an uproar when dke’s “sexual assault” took place, yet when an actual sexual assault is reported during heavy drinking and hazing at a non-fraternity party, everyone rushes to their defense and doesn’t seem to care about the possible crime and victim. Somehow I’m sure a fraternity will get blamed, since sexual assault can’t possibly happen outside the walls of dke or zeta. Where is the women’s center now on this issue, or do they just pick their fights based on fraternity/non fraternity status?

  • 201Y1

    @eli1: Who is rushing to their defense? My sense is that the people responsible for this are going to get burned.

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Not sure why that guy’s post was removed …
    It struck me as pretty interesting reporting.

  • SmokeandTruth

    Noticed it wasn’t in the original article, felt like it should be, given the comments people have been posting. The Womens’ Center did have someone involved who threw the party, is all. No names.

  • River Tam

    naked parties are one of the three most juvenile things about yale. the other two involve the YPU.

  • timemachinist

    Naked college parties! Just what Yale wants to be known for! I’ve walked the campus many evenings in the past month (en route to great classical music) and seen parades of squealing (it was freezing out) young women with skirts so short they had they to hold them down! Very pretty legs I must admit! I’d say the kids at Yale are just like any other college girls in some ways, however high-achieving she or her daddy might be. I know it sounds neanderthal but they really are asking for it. Its not right to force sex but consent gets pretty blurry with alcohol and girls already voluntarily undressed. You play with fire. My advice (send the 25 cents please) would be that if you don’t want to have sex then keep your clothes on in the street and especially at drinking parties. If you feel pressured then you need some different friends. If you enjoy it, then don’t complain about it later.
    The truth is, a beautiful woman is obviously beautiful without having to show a lot of skin or makeup. Even conservatively dressed, your beauty shines through.

  • River Tam

    > and seen parades of squealing (it was freezing out) young women with skirts so short they had they to hold them down! Very pretty legs I must admit!

    Probably Qpac girls.

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    @timemachinist

    That comment was totally clueless no matter what dimension you’re currently inhabiting. Wow.

    I’ve been walking about campus lately and wondering why so many Yalies are always dressed up like construction workers and cops. Weird.

  • b12

    No one was forced to disrobe. The invitation clearly stated the intent of the party, and several who didn’t want to be naked left at midnight when gears shifted.

    It should also be noted that some pundits were indeed forcing juniors to drink… water. Big wonderful vodka handles filled with cold, refreshing water.

    Naked parties are normally civilized affairs, and in their own way, Pundits have done much to contribute to the Yale community.

    That said, the party was not civilized, and there were some reprehensible actions, but all were there by their own volition, drawn by a mutual desire to join the group that is now being criticized.

  • BaruchAtta

    I’m glad to see that **Yale is not much different** than, (picking a college at random), Duke. What would your mother say? “Pundits”? Pundits *party*? Oxymoron. Was “W ’68” a Pundit? Goes to show that you can be a total Boor and still become the leader of the free world.

  • alsoanon

    @b12 you clearly weren’t there if you’re actually deluded enough to believe there was water in those handles.

  • eli1

    @201Y1. I interpret the womens center’s and other campus groups silence as a defense. Remember, this is an organization that mass emails, threatens to sue, and generally freaks out at any possibility that a sexual assault may have occurred, with or without necessary facts. I wonder why they are taking to so long to publicly condemn the alleged assailant in this case? Would the same caution be taken if this happened at a frat party?

  • b12

    @alsoanon: Not to start, certainly. But by the end of the party, some were filled with water. Thanks for quickly attacking me, though.

  • alsoanon

    @b12 your post clearly implied that there was only ever water in the handles. look, i was there, i don’t want the pundits to get in trouble either. but there’s no point in trying to make it seem like some harmless fun time where all the pundits sobered us up helpfully all night long.

  • b12

    @alsoanon: Truth. I didn’t mean to be misleading.

  • scc

    I think it’s very intriguing, and partly disturbing, that there is such a stark difference between our responses to the DKE chanting and the events that took place at the Pundits party.

    People are saying that it’s different because it’s a private party that happened off campus. Other’s say it was that the people there could easily have left the party and knew what they were getting themselves into. The issue at hand however is the fact that hazing, by nature, is forced upon people not in any physical way, but rather in a much more subtle context. The people who were being pre-tapped were in a position where they wanted to become part of this group, it’s a perfectly understandable feeling. But as a result of this the people at the party had power, and they completely abused that power and thereby endangered their fellow students. And some people may believe that I’m going overboard when I say endangered, but I personally believe that when Juniors in college are found unresponsive and barely clothed outdoors in the dead of night we have crossed the line of being “really trashed” into the area of “something terrible could have happened.”

    What is most disappointing about this all is that this isn’t news. People were talking about how horrible this party was the very day after. Plenty of YDN’s editors were there. No one even considered speaking out about it. Even now, the only people who could make sure this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again wont speak out simply due to this social pressure and power dynamic.

    I understand people who want to protect their friend from repercussions from a party that got out of hand. But If the sexual assault allegations are true, I think that’s something the entire Yale community has a responsibility to address.

  • smartypants79

    The administration seems concerned that people were compelled to drink and kiss one another. I think they should be just as concerned that people were compelled to get naked. Sure, people could leave at midnight–and probably have no chance of getting in, right?
    Forced nudity and humiliation is deemed by some to be a form of torture–why do we think it’s a-ok for our students to do to one another?

  • SmokeandTruth

    I think the people who we can usually count on to shrilly respond to any kind of misconduct should be ashamed, because they’ve been silent when a well-known student group abused its power in a pre-tap process in order to get a group of juniors dangerously drunk and potentially sexually abuse or humiliate them in order to prove their “worth” or desire to join. Juniors who were involved have been compelled to keep their silence in order to have a chance to get into the pundits.

    This happened 2 weeks ago–why did this become public just now? How come nobody came forward to protest it until Ronnell Higgins sent an email and the YDN posted a vague as hell article?

  • The Anti-Yale

    Gin up your impulse-button and hope for the best. Sounds like a way to wind up in trouble to me.

  • penny_lane

    My take on what makes this situation and the DKE situation different:
    DKE’s actions deliberately championed a misogynistic message, a sexually harassing action directed at the entire campus. There was nothing private about it and there was no one victim (or even small group of victims) whose privacy deserves to be protected. Moreover, everyone knew exactly what had happened, due to unequivocal and widespread witness accounts, including a youtube video.

    The Pundits’ actions were absolutely reprehensible–but there is not a youtube video, and witness accounts are conflicted. Moreover, those who experienced sexual harassment and assault at this party deserve to have their identities protected, and public outcry would stir potentially invasive curiosity as to who was involved. It also doesn’t seem that these actions were spurred by any overt disrespect or dislike for women, but by a serious lack of consideration and respect for people in general, specifically, potential Pundit taps, especially considering (according to this “news” article) the most serious offense seems to have been perpetrated on two males. The type of hazing used at this party is clearly very, very wrong, with the potential to inflict physical and emotional harm. I can think of a few past Pundits who are probably shocked, ashamed and disappointed that this has occurred. The campus clearly needs to seriously examine what is okay and what is not okay to use as part of an initiation ritual. If there were an anti-hazing group on campus, I’m sure we would have heard from them, but since this is not a women’s rights issue, the Women’s Center’s silence, I think, is unremarkable.

  • penny_lane

    PS- smartypants79: The Pundits have included members before who did not feel comfortable being naked. One woman was asked simply to wear lingerie every time group activities included nudity. In the past, at least, people’s personal boundaries in that area have been respected.

  • joey00

    I always bring my guitar to these. I raise my hands in the air,and wave them like i just don’t care
    – and one can hear it play duelin… Hey ,how come no report in the news about the 80 year old man pistol whipped and robbed of $120 on Howe Street at 8:30 pm on Wednesday nite ?

  • alsoanon

    @penny_lane well said.

  • The Anti-Yale

    ” . . . but by a serious lack of consideration and respect for people in general . . .”

    I am stunned at how rational you make all this sound, as if the last 100 years of psychoanalytic research never existed and folks merely need to be reminded to be considerate and respectful.

    People—all people (including Mother Teresa) — are full of hostility.

    Add alcohol to that recipe and you have an equation for violence and abusive behavior.

    “Sexism,” “racism,” “anti-semitism,” “homophobia,” “gay-bashing” —-these are all fuses we attach to the stick of dynamite that is human behavior.

    Alcohol in the match.

  • yaleperson32399

    The Pundits have been a decent and respectful group in the past but definitely not for the past several years. Hazing and group intimidation coercing others to drink, do drugs, and perform sexual acts does indeed occur at their parties, although sporadically, and more notably during their month long hazing process once they have selected the new members. The Pundits will argue that they choose people to be in their society who are comfortable doing these things and that pre-tap parties such as the one last weekend are in place to weed out those not interested. They will claim that their members have looser personal boundaries than others, therefore making what they coerce other members to do analogous to a friend pressuring another friend to merely drink a cup of apple juice. However, their hazing is inhumane, malice, cannot justify means to an end, and most importantly, is illegal. These hazing activities occur in secret and to a small group of people and therefore do not receive the same public criticism that DKE and organizations on other campuses do for their hazing when in fact the Pundits’ hazing is much worse. But for this party in particular, something is seriously wrong with an organization where so many people left in ambulances and so many people felt uncomfortable, believing that their sexual rights were violated. Even if the juniors rushing the Pundits were drinking to excess and agreeing to sexual behavior to impress the upperclassmen, there is something wrong with an organization that creates an environment where people feel obligated or even want to do things such to earn membership into an organization. The Pundits have been challenged by ex-comm and the police beforehand and I am sure that even if they are punished for this party, it will not be a wake up call. Pundit alums need to hold the current members responsible for their mistakes and make sure that the organization resumes to the good natured organization that it once was.

  • 4lok0_4_3va

    Ugh. I was there too. I’m glad I wasn’t the only who felt a little weirded out. All I saw were stilettos. I guess I never got the memo. DEFINITELY wasn’t a Nashville party.

  • yesharvardsucks

    To smartypants79 and @penny_lane — indeed, one junior loved the Pundits very much and respectfully asked to wear “creative lingerie” instead of showing her goodies to the Yale campus. I’m that woman, and my request was granted with one trade-off: a vow to never eat oyster crackers. So the lingerie was lacy, colorful and entertaining…and my last oyster cracker consumption occurred at Mory’s about a week before the vow in 1991. Long live the Pundits, and good luck staying off the bad radar. TBIYTB.

  • allgirl_airlines

    SO AWKWARD!!! I mean when I showed up to the naked party I totally didn’t expect actual nudity…

  • lalocruz

    I pity the fool that would propose that this group has “contributed” anything even *remotely* valuable to campus this year. “For God, For Country, Four Loko”? You don’t belong at Yale.

    TBIYTB after these jerks graduate. Or don’t

    For a meaningful contribution to campus, the junior class should boycott this group by refusing seniors’ taps. Or else let the cycle of naked parties where juniors’ bodies are branded with “letter grades” continue!

  • HC

    Binge drinking is a serious problem, and it is extremely troubling that so many students went to the hospital that night. That said, the idea that their hospitalization can be blamed on the people who threw the party (even if there was an atmosphere that encouraged debauchery) is ridiculous. 20-21 year-olds should know how to handle drinking or not drink at all. They should know when they have reached their limit and should leave a party or say no to more drinks at that point.

  • 4lok0_4_3va

    Everything was fine at this party until Charlie Sheen showed up. Dude is cray-zay! You think Franco has a chance at getting tapped?

  • ByZaika

    this reminds me of an old Russian joke: two women talking. one says: i took a wrong turn at the forest last night and got raped. the other woman asks her: so what are you gonna do about it? the first one replies: what do you mean what? I’ll take the same turn tomorrow.

  • SmokeandTruth

    That’s a stupid “joke”. The blame for rape lies solely with the rapist. People can wear any clothing they’d like (or none at all) and have the right to not be raped.

  • ByZaika

    ^^^ you tell to the monkeys. if you wear nothing you’re in the animal kingdom and thus get taken whenever and by whomever. clothing is what separates us from animals.

  • SmokeandTruth

    A primitive opinion from a primitive person.

  • Standards

    Funny how aboriginals in areas of Africa and South America were and are able to walk around with little to no clothing, yet could somehow exist without indiscriminately raping each other. I thought it was little things like second order cognition or the ability to reason from abstract moral principles that separate us from the animals.

    But then again, maybe for someone with as sophisticated opinions as yourself clothes really are the only difference.

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