In a letter to the Yale community Friday, Yale College Mary Miller wrote on behalf of administrators to express disapproval for Delta Kappa Epsilon’s controversial pledge initiation on Old Campus Wednesday night.
“I speak for the University in expressing my outrage that such words were shouted on this campus,” Miller wrote, referring to the DKE members’ chanting of phrases such as “F—ing sluts,” “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f— dead women.”
Miller extensively quoted formal University policies, drawn from the C. Vann Woodward report and the official statement on Sexual Harassment. Although she emphasized “the results of free expression are to the general benefit in the long run, however unpleasant they may appear at the time,” she wrote that freedom of speech must take place in a civil and respectful setting.
In making reference to other official guidelines, she also reminded readers what constitutes sexual harassment and that sexual harassment represents “a violation of University policy and may result in serious disciplinary action.”
Miller wrote about the Women’s Center panel Friday in response to the DKE incident, which she called a “landmark meeting” attended by at least 150 students. The forum, she said, begins a long process of discourse between all parties involved.
On the possibility of disciplinary response against DKE, she wrote that such matters are confidential at Yale as required by the University and federal law.
“In short, the process is not designed to provide satisfaction to those who might feel aggrieved as members of the larger community in which the offense has occurred,” Miller wrote.
She added that it is important to realize DKE has been held accountable for their behavior and that the fraternity has accepted responsibility, allowing for more dialogue on sexual harassment.
Read the full text of the letter below:
October 15, 2010
Dear Members of the Yale Community:
I write in response to concern over the DKE incident on Yale’s Old Campus Wednesday evening. I speak for the University in expressing my outrage that such words were shouted on this campus.
That said, I repeat the words of the C. Vann Woodward report, official University policy, regarding speech:
We take a chance, as the First Amendment takes a chance, when we commit ourselves to the idea that the results of free expression are to the general benefit in the long run, however unpleasant they may appear at the time. The validity of such a belief cannot be demonstrated conclusively. It is a belief of recent historical development, even within universities, one embodied in American constitutional doctrine but not widely shared outside the academic world, and denied in theory and in practice by much of the world most of the time.
In short, we do not censor speech on our campus but — in order to trust one another and to be confident in our communications — free expression calls for an environment of civility and respect. In this light, consider the official statement on Sexual Harassment of the University:
Sexual harassment is antithetical to academic values and to a work environment free from the fact or appearance of coercion. It is a violation of University policy and may result in serious disciplinary action. Sexual harassment consists of nonconsensual sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus.
So here is the immediate question that many have asked today: what is Yale doing in response? Today, at least 150 students, largely from the Women’s Center and DKE met together, a landmark meeting to begin a dialogue that we hope leads to mutual respect. After a public session, the students met in small groups with dialogue facilitators. Thus begins a long process.
But others will ask as well, what more is Yale doing in response? Is someone being punished? What will be known, ultimately, about any disciplinary response to the DKE shouting on the Old Campus of October 13, 2010?
Any and all disciplinary processes are confidential at Yale, from their inception through their conclusion as required under federal law and University policy.
In short, the process is not designed to provide satisfaction to those who might feel aggrieved as members of the larger community in which the offense has occurred.
But what matters most here is that the larger community has addressed the particular fraternity, DKE, and held them responsible and accountable for their actions. What is important to recognize is that DKE has accepted responsibility, opening a new level of discourse on the issue of sexual harassment. This is an opportunity to seize.
Dean of Yale College