The Yale Society for the Exploration of Campus Secrets, a semi-secret society involved in investigating the history of University buildings, has been accused of trespassing in and vandalizing rooms in two of Yale’s residential colleges, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said.
The group has been blamed for a number of such violations this year, most recently for allegedly illegally entering and disturbing a Jonathan Edwards College common room and making at least one illegal entry in Branford College, said the current leader of YSECS, who asked to remain anonymous. The incident in Branford is currently under investigation by the University, Branford College Master Steven Smith said.
The leader of YSECS said the group is not responsible for the acts in question. Students who are tapped for YSECS are required to file a report on all of their explorations, and none of these reports correspond to the times or locations of the events in question, she said.
“No one can prove anything … because we are not involved in it,” she said.
Trachtenberg said she thinks YSECS does valuable research about the history of the University, and does not believe they are responsible for the acts.
“In the past month or so, every time something is amiss, people point their fingers at this group,” Trachtenberg said. “I cannot imagine that they are doing this.”
JE Master Gary Haller said a group of students “trashed” a private JE common room before trespassing on the roof of a building in the college on Sept. 21. The YSECS leader said Haller accused her group of the disturbance when speaking with Trachtenberg, but Haller declined to publicly name the group he believes is to blame for the incident..
“I’m pretty confident in my own information about which group is responsible,” Haller said. “They better not try it again.”
Haller said his suspicions are based on the accounts of JE students and graduate affiliates who witnessed the events as well as a piece of evidence recovered from the scene — a discarded e-mail.
Smith said he would not elaborate on the incident in his college because an investigation into the matter is still underway.
“There have been some illegal entries that we are looking into,” Smith said.
Branford Dean Thomas McDow said the Branford break-in occurred during the first week of this month. Although he declined to comment specifically on the incident, McDow said he is concerned that students lack respect for college property.
“In many colleges these days there is a concern that students are not signing out spaces in the proper way and not taking responsibility for the spaces that they are using,” he said.
YSECS is on the list of student groups approved by the Yale College Dean’s Office, and it currently receives funding from the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, the current YSECS leader said.
The group’s leader said the organization has strict rules against violating undergraduate regulations such as trespassing and breaking and entering. If a YSECS member were caught breaking these rules, he or she would face probation or expulsion from the group, she said.
“YSECS is the name that everybody knows, so if something goes wrong they will immediately assume it’s us,” she said. “But because we are registered and because we are Dean’s Office approved, we make sure to play by the rules.”
Multiple YSECS members said they think it is possible that disappointed taps may have caused the damage. More than 250 students rushed the group this year, the majority of whom were rejected, the current YSECS leader said. She said these students sometimes form unregistered groups in order to continue their explorations.
“Every year there are spin off groups … of disgruntled taps that try to do what we are doing,” she said. “They don’t seem to treat Yale with the same respect as we do, and none of them ever seem to last very long.”
YSECS is taking steps to resolve both accusations and has spoken with Haller multiple times in order to clear its name, the group’s leader said.