The father of a student who attended an independent summer program at Yale in June and July is planning to file suit against the camp, alleging that directors wrongly dismissed his son from the program on charges of harassment and hazing.
Doug Moss, the father of a 16-year-old high-school junior who attended the 2007 Summer Exploration Program — a non-Yale-affiliated program that rents space on Old Campus each summer — said charges that his son made inappropriate drawings are “ridiculous and over the top,” but the Explo director maintains that the dismissed camper was in clear violation of the program’s rules, which were unambiguously defined to all students and parents.
Moss said his son had finished one-third of the three-week-long program and was in his dorm one day when he and two male friends decided to make lewd drawings, which Moss described as humorous and “all typical teen-boy stuff.” When the campers’ residential counselor inspected their dorm room later that day, he discovered the drawings and confiscated them, Moss said.
At 11 p.m., camp administrators asked to talk to his son and the other two boys, Moss said, and proceeded to “grill” them until 2:30 a.m. The officials then informed Moss’ son that he was being dismissed from the program.
“There was no appeal process,” Moss said. “They never put anything in writing.”
The third boy involved in the incident said he had not taken part in the drawing and was not asked to leave, Moss said.
Moss asked that his son remain anonymous. The son declined to comment for this story.
Moss said his son’s actions did not constitute harassment or hazing because his son had not distributed the drawings.
“There was no intent to cause anybody any harm,” Moss said. “It was a humor thing.”
Explo told Moss that his son’s actions were making another student feel unsafe, Moss said. He said the director’s decision was an instance of “scapegoating.”
Moss said his son found out from friends who remained in the program that their counselor held a meeting not long after at which he told his campers that he “also felt that the kids should not have been kicked out.”
Moira Kelly, executive director of Explo, said the organization goes to great pains to make rules clear to the families of campers so they understand the kind of community the program aims to foster.
“I can’t go into details, except to say that it would be absurd to think that if a student had drawn some completely benign pictures that we would be dismissing a child for that,” she said.
She declined to comment on specific details of the Moss incident.
Explo sets high behavioral standards, which many parents have cited as a reason for enrolling their children in the program, Kelly said.
She said the program’s vigilance and active supervision are important, since some students will inevitably get out of line.
“If you put 1,400 kids in one place together for the summer … invariably one or more of them are going to break the rules,” she said.
But Moss said the penalty for breaking these rules was excessive and said the program did not refund the $5,300 Moss paid for tuition and other fees.
Kelly said Explo is upfront about its no-refund policy when students are applying for the program.
“It would be very difficult to run a program where students could act out flagrantly … and then expect that they’re going to get all of their money back,” she said.
Moss said he worries that his son’s “outrageous” treatment is part of a “pattern of abuse” at Explo.
In 2002, several male students were dismissed from the program when a girl entered their room to retrieve a ring. The program’s rules forbid students of opposite sexes from going into one another’s rooms. The family of one of the expelled students planned to take legal action against Explo but settled out of court, said Scott Macdonald, the family’s lawyer.
Macdonald said he has been in contact with Moss and told the News that Moss’ son’s actions did not directly violate any camp rule he could find.
“The truth of the matter is that [Explo] couldn’t legitimately identify any rule in the rule book that the kids could have conceivably [violated],” he said.
Macdonald said several male French students were also dismissed from Explo over the summer because they went into a girls’ dorm room to take cover from a rain storm. He said he thinks the case merited no more than a slap on the wrist.
Moss said Yale should take note of what he called a pattern of excessive punishment for minor offenses.
Beyond renting out space to the program, the University has no affiliation with Explo, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said.
“We wouldn’t have any opinion on the dispute between Exploration and a participant in the program,” Conroy said in an e-mail.
Explo began renting space on Old Campus in summer 2001.