Members of the Yale Women’s Center board of directors told the News over the weekend that they will push the University to change portions of the undergraduate regulations in order to address what they called “fraternity-sponsored or -enabled sexual harassment, assault and rape.”
In the wake of controversy over the circulation last week of a photograph in which students affiliated with the Zeta Psi fraternity are seen holding up a sign reading “We Love Yale Sluts” in front of the Women’s Center, the directors met with Yale College Dean’s Office administrators Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of such policy changes. Members of Zeta Psi also met with administrators last week to talk about how the fraternity could react to the incident, but chapter president John Charest ’10 said the group has not nailed down any concrete plans since the fraternity issued a public apology, which was published in the News last Tuesday.
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At a Wednesday afternoon meeting, members of the fraternity discussed ways that the organization can support and reach out to women at Yale.
Center board members, meanwhile, have indicated they may pursue legal action. More than 20 legal experts have offered aid to the Center over the past week, said Chase Olivarius-McAllister ’09, the Center’s former political-action coordinator.
But Center directors were vague as to what exactly that legal action would entail. The directors said they are still deciding whether to file a sexual-harassment suit. Olivarius-McAllister hinted that the Center might pursue additional legal channels but declined to elaborate further.
At the meeting with administrators, the Center requested that the University adopt a host of structural changes to address what it perceives to be fraternity-sponsored sexual harassment, assault and rape. Both the Center’s directors and administrators declined to specify what possible changes were discussed.
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who was among the administrators who met with the Women’s Center, neither confirmed nor denied that changes to University policy would be enacted, but he said administration dialogue with the Center will be ongoing.
“I think our conversations should continue,” he said. “There’s an opportunity here to look at the current structure, and there are people who are willing to sit and look at things to see what’s possible.”
Other administrators present at the meeting include Assistant Dean of Yale College Edgar Letriz and Professor Maria Trumpler, director of undergraduate studies for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and special advisor to the administration for LGBTQ issues.
But several members of the fraternity community, including Sigma Alpha Epsilon president RJ Price ’09, argued that the push for such changes exaggerates the extent of the problem on campus. Price said he has never witnessed “a single incident” of sexual harassment at SAE or any other Yale fraternity and said SAE had discussed sexual harassment earlier in the year at a forum the fraternity held for brothers and pledges.
“Not only are we not sponsoring or enabling, we’re actively preventing and actively condemning these kind of actions,” Price said. “We do not stand for this, we don’t support this and the fraternity system here does not condone sexual harassment and never has.”
Zeta Psi national organization Executive Director Dave Hunter said Friday that an investigation of the Yale chapter is underway and that a representative from the national organization was on campus Thursday to talk with members of the fraternity. If the fraternity is found to be in violation of the national organization’s risk-management policy — which expressly prohibits hazing and sexual assault — the fraternity could face a warning, a probationary period or suspension from the national organization.
The national disciplinary committee met this weekend to discuss courses of action, but Hunter said the process might take 30 to 60 days. Hunter could not be reached Sunday evening for additional comment on the results of those committee discussions.
“We’re going to be deliberate, which means it might take some time,” he said on Friday.
At a team meeting on Friday morning, head football coach Jack Siedlecki expressed his “extreme disappointment” about the incident, Siedlecki said. Zeta Psi’s membership has traditionally drawn heavily from the team.
“While I respect their right to freedom of speech, I am extremely disappointed that such a stupid act was not questioned by someone in the group,” Siedlecki said in an e-mail to the News. “I would hope that the individuals involved have learned that their flippant lack of respect has harmed the image of several groups on campus. We are all going to have to work very hard to get that respect back.”