The University has ordered the Aurelian Honor Society, one of Yale’s oldest senior societies, to vacate its private meeting space on the fourth floor of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, citing events that transpired on pre-tap night last April and a pattern of “cyclical problematic conduct” by the society, according to emails obtained by the News.
Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar informed Brian Mitchell ’72, the chairman of the Aurelian board of trustees, and Laura Anderson ’17, the president of this year’s delegation, of the society’s expulsion in an email on Jan. 19. In her email, Lizarríbar instructed society members to schedule a time to remove their belongings from the room, which members refer to as Room 405.
“While this academic year’s ban on using the room was based on the events that transpired in April 7, 2016, a concerning factor was that it was the second incident of a similar, dangerous nature to occur within a short time span (and after a previous admonishment and prohibition of use),” Lizarríbar wrote. “In addition, while these incidents are recent ones, in fact there are numerous previous incidents establishing a pattern of cyclical problematic conduct not only towards the room itself, but more significantly towards the safety of students and the integrity of Yale College property.”
“Despite the tradition of the room’s use by Aurelian, given these incidents and the changing purpose of the society, the College can no longer justify designating space for an exclusive senior society on Yale property, nor sustain the liability incurred with the unregulated and destructive use of the room,” Lizarríbar added.
In 2012, the administration banned Aurelian from using Room 405 after the University discovered that the society had served alcohol to its underage members on Tap Night. It is unclear when the society regained use of the room.
Mitchell responded to Lizarríbar’s email in a letter in which he emphasized that the membership of Aurelian is “exceptionally diverse, and not an exclusive senior society” and that the purpose of the society has not changed from its original mission of distributing scholarship funds and engaging in community activities that reflect Yale’s values.
“We understood that we would have a meeting before a decision was made,” Mitchell wrote. “Your email felt like the matter was a foregone conclusion.”
University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway were copied on the letter.
Mitchell, Lizarríbar and Director of Student Affairs Hannah Peck declined to comment for this article.
When contacted for comment, current members of Aurelian also declined and issued the same statement, citing ongoing discussions between the society’s trustees and the Yale College Dean’s Office.
“We will be eager to discuss developments in the near future,” they wrote.
According to an anonymous alumnus of Aurelian, the infraction in April likely involved underage drinking in Room 405 on Tap Night. The member added that the expulsion could also be related to rumored complaints from a Yale-employed cleaning crew that Aurelian had “trashed” its meeting space.
Holloway refused to answer emailed questions about the nature of the incident last spring that resulted in Aurelian’s ban, simply adding that safety concerns were a factor in the University’s decision.
“Yale College does not provide campus spaces to senior societies, even those that originated as honor societies,” Holloway said. “In the end, Yale College could not justify giving exclusive use of a space in SSS to one senior society, privileging it over all the others that would like similar accommodations.”
While most of Yale’s senior societies have residences off-campus, Aurelian, as well as the senior society Torch, have met in Yale-owned buildings.
Torch used to meet on the fourth floor of SSS until 2005, when it was banned from its space for damaging University property. Torch now meets in the Yale-China Association building on Temple Street, according to one current member.
Founded in 1910, Aurelian is the fifth-oldest secret society at Yale and the first to admit women among the senior societies. Since the 1950s, the society has also been tied to the University through a 501(c)3 organization that allows members to donate to Yale’s endowment.
Yale has occasionally hosted private University events in the rooms, independently of the society.