The captain of the men’s tennis team apologized last week in an e-mail sent to several members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale for what the Co-op had described as homophobic activities during the team’s initiation last fall.
In his e-mail, Brandon Wai ’07 expressed “deep regrets” on behalf of the tennis team for its “unacceptable actions” and said the team has held numerous meetings to discuss how best to address the incident. Members of the co-op said they appreciated Wai’s heartfelt apology and that they hope to use the incident as a springboard in an effort to heighten sensitivity to queer issues within Yale’s athletic community.
“We certainly meant no harm to anyone,” Wai said in the e-mail. “In hindsight, we see that our actions were inappropriate and harmful, and we deeply regret our insensitivity. The outing was an ignorant and distasteful attempt at humor and in no way reflects our personal beliefs.”
During dinner on Nov. 10, team members wearing women’s underwear and fishnet stockings had posed as members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and entered several residential college dining halls, where they sang and danced on tabletops, students who saw the incident said. The witnesses said the team’s initiates had signs on their backs that read, “I’m a faggot. Insert Here.”
The tennis team met last fall with coach Alex Dorato and Senior Associate Athletic Director Forrest Temple after the episode came to light, Wai said, and has consulted with the team’s academic adviser and law professor Jed Rubenfeld to discuss legal implications. Wai said the team wrote an apology last November to Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt and Dean Amerigo Fabbri for having offended students in the Pierson dining hall.
The Athletics Department is aware of the hazing and is in the process of investigating it, Director of Athletics Thomas Beckett said last week.
Beckett’s department is “extremely disappointed” by the tennis team’s “inappropriate initiation” activities, he said in a statement.
Co-op Coordinator Anna Wipfler ’09 said she had been unaware of the numerous meetings the tennis team had held to address the issue and is glad that the team has now apologized for the incident.
“I was very happy to read the apology, and I definitely thought it was sincere and I really appreciated it,” she said. “We are not asking for anything else from the men’s tennis team. We are more asking for a strengthening of programs that might prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.”
Not all members of the co-op have yet seen the apology, which was addressed only to Wipfler, co-op board member and Queer Resource Center coordinator Ben Gonzalez ’09, Dorato, Beckett and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, Wipfler said. Wipfler said she may include the e-mail in one of the announcements bulletin that the co-op sends out periodically.
Gonzalez said he and a student who witnessed the initiation have scheduled a meeting with Trachtenberg and Assistant Dean of Yale College Edgar Letriz for Monday afternoon in order to talk about securing administration funding for the Queer Peers counseling program and setting up a workshop between co-op members and athletics coaches. The co-op would use the workshop to provide coaches with pamphlets and information sheets that they could use to help students who come to them with issues relating to sexual orientation, Gonzalez said.
“The focal point is to get the coaches, because then we have a figurehead who is able to say, ‘Here is an envelope’ or ‘Here is information’ or ‘Here are people you can talk to,’” he said. “The way Yale works is there is a great big fountain of help, but no directions to get there.”
The co-op would also like to see coaches post “safe space” stickers in their offices to signify to athletes that they can feel comfortable talking with coaches about issues of sexual identity, Gonalez said. He said the point of these proposed measures is not to sit all of Yale’s athletes down and “have them take a seminar” on tolerance, but rather to increase awareness of queer issues.