Police close Pundits investigation

After an investigation into allegations of sexual assault, the Yale Police Department will not file criminal charges against any member of the Pundits, Yale’s senior prank society, for events that took place at the group’s Feb. 19 pre-tap naked party.

YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins told the News in a phone interview Friday evening that the department had concluded its criminal investigation of the party and would not be pursuing any charges in relation to the pre-tap party that sent several attendees to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Higgins said that at least one student had told police of possible sexual assault at the Pundits’ party. He also confirmed that his Feb. 28 e-mail to the Yale community about a “possible sexual assault involving Yale undergraduates that occurred at an off campus party on 2/19” was, in fact, a result of the Pundits’ party.

But even though the YPD’s investigation is over, the Yale College Dean’s office will continue its own examination as to whether hazing occurred at the party.

As a result of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity incident in October, the Yale College Dean’s office is in the midst of reviewing hazing’s role in Yale campus groups’ initiation rituals. The review includes not only fraternities, but senior societies, as well.

“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 a Mar. 2 email regarding the Pundits’ party. “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.”

Fifteen attendee interviews following the party painted a mixed picture of the evening: some said they felt victimized by events they witnessed or were asked to partake in, while others said they did not see anything they considered to be out of the ordinary, given the nature of the event.

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

One attendee, who spoke to the News on the condition of anonymity and complied with the YPD’s investigation, said a police investigator asked unprompted whether sexual misconduct had occurred at the party. The student recalled for the investigator witnessing a member of the Pundits forcing attendees to kiss each other and that one member of the society forced a male friend’s face onto another’s penis.

Higgins said he intends to release a public statement about the YPD investigation sometime this weekend.

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