What individuals do in their public and personal lives undoubtedly affects society at large and, if we truly care about bettering our society, we must never deceive ourselves into thinking we live in complete isolation. This is one of the basic claims of Undergraduates for a Better Yale College. So, for example, heroin use may, at first glance, seem to harm only the drug user. Yet the drug abuser’s family and community undoubtedly feel negative effects (the violence, deceit, selfish pursuit of pleasure, often at the expense of others, etc.). Worse still, if a society allows addictive drug use it not only makes drug abuse more common but also condones the use of those drugs and, unwittingly, the harm that follows. This is why we continue to create laws that promote certain values and deter improper conduct. In a similar way, Yale University, by allowing certain events on campus, even passively, either implicitly condones those events and their messages or disagrees with the message but values the discourse the message provides. Events and actions on Yale’s campus, endorsed by the University or not, must garner the hidden approval of the Yale administration in order to continue.
Now, Yale is overall a very accepting place condoning many opinions people disagree with, which is necessary to promote the exchange of ideas. Yet some actions are simply unacceptable and require reaction from Yale. One such instance when the University specifically expressed its disapproval was last year’s DKE incident. In an effort to promote a safe and respectful environment for all its students, the Yale administration rightly took action against those who shouted vulgar and harmful language, even though this action limited the freedom of students to speak as they pleased.
Thus, Yale not only had the power to limit and reject the DKE brothers’ harmful speech; it was obliged to preserve a positive Yale community. This obligation is not necessarily the result of Yale propagating a specific set of morals, but merely a result of Yale’s stated desire to promote a safe and constructive community. In accepting Yale’s right to punish DKE, we accept the Yale administration as an actor in the community able to intervene when necessary, even if its methods aren’t always proper.
In light of this obligation, we now return to UBYC. Though I am not a member of UBYC, I am bold enough to claim that the biggest problem UBYC wants to discuss and change is not Sex Week itself, but rather the culture that wholeheartedly accepts what Sex Week stands for.
Sex Week carries with it the culturally entrenched assumption that reducing people to objects is acceptable. Yet treating other people as anything less than human beings is unacceptable and harmful to both the individuals and community and should, at the very least, prompt a dialogue of reform amongst students and administrators.
Furthermore, I do not believe Sex Week, an event that glorifies objectification, in any way creates the beneficial discourse that Yale should allow even if Yale does, hypothetically, support Sex Week’s events and goals. Proper discourse requires a minimum respect for other human beings, but Sex Week destroys that respect by not only accepting, but also glorifying the use of human beings as objects to the end of others’ sexual desires. The University, as an institution devoted to higher learning, must strive to preserve that respect. This is not to say that the University administration is the best means to these ends (in fact, a student-led initiative would be greatly preferable), but merely that the administration does have the power and responsibility to better the Yale community.
I hope everyone at Yale would agree that our fellow Yalies are unquestionably more than objects to be used for our personal sexual gratification. Yet we couple this belief with the acceptance of an event series and culture that promotes and unintentionally praises the reduction of other people to the status of object. We had no problem punishing DKE for their harmful and destructive chants, but because Sex Week and Yale’s sexual culture harm in more subtle ways, through destructive ideas rather than direct manifestations, we feel no need to act.
This passivity on the part of Yale and the student body is an implicit acceptance of a culture and series of events that degrades us all and endangers the safe and respectful community we all want to create and enjoy. Sex Week may or may not have a right to stay around, but I hope, as Yalies and friends, we can all say we don’t want it around.
Alec Torres is a junior in Trumbull College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.