Administrators’ plans to improve the sexual climate on campus through student-based leadership councils are facing resistance from leaders of undergraduate organizations.
In its 42-page report released last Thursday, the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate recommended that Yale establish leadership councils among groups of related student organizations to provide a forum for members to “monitor” each other’s activities and discuss issues such as appropriate sexual conduct. In the response that University President Richard Levin sent with the report, he advised student groups to develop committees similar to the Singing Group Council, which oversees Yale’s 15 a cappella groups, and added that the administration would start by expanding leadership councils to fraternities and sororities.
But four members of a cappella groups interviewed said they would not like to see the SGC expand to evaluate sexual climate, and five fraternity leaders interviewed said they disapproved of the idea of a student leadership council.
“If the Yale administration would like fraternities to join some sort of inter-fraternity council or student leadership council, they need to provide some incentives,” said Benjamin Singleton ’13, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, in a Monday email. “What we do not want is an overbearing, regulatory agency that aims to limit the activities of our fraternity.”
The four-member Singing Group Council, founded over a decade ago after what Yale College Dean Mary Miller called a “particularly bad tap night,” currently oversees the rush process for a cappella groups, but has no other major role within the a cappella community, co-chair Hannah Loeb ’12 said.
She added that she does not see the group expanding its authority to handle non-rush issues because she thinks students would worry that regulations might tighten.
Alex Ratner ’14, a member of The Duke’s Men, said while the SGC helps the rush process run more smoothly by serving as a regulatory authority, he does not think it should also monitor sexual climate among singing groups.
“There are dialogues about sexual climate that happen within every group,” Ratner said, “but I don’t think I would recommend that sharing of details throughout the entire a cappella community.”
Miller said implementing similar leadership councils for student groups with shared interests, such as fraternities and sororities, would provide a “channel for information to flow from [her] office to those groups, without trying to guess who they all are.”
But fraternity leaders remain hesitant to engage with the administration. Administrators held a “Yale Greek Roundtable” forum earlier this semester to improve communication between Greek organizations and the administrators and to discuss the possibility of creating an inter-fraternity council, but two fraternity presidents said the attendees were not receptive to the idea.
“The opinion most people were expressing was that any of the proposed forms of an inter-fraternity council would just be another form of administrative oversight,” Alpha Delta Phi fraternity President Jamey Silveira ’13 said, adding that the meeting ended without a “real consensus.”
Singleton said Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry is holding another meeting with fraternity leaders this Friday, but Gentry could not be reached to comment on the meeting or the potential expansion of leadership councils.
Silveira added that although he thought there was “something to be gained by having all parties in communication,” fraternity leaders already speak to each other regularly, and a governing body would not necessarily encourage Greek organizations to supervise each other’s actions. Instead, he said forming a council might lead to a “slippery slope” of increased administrative oversight.
But Singleton said he might be open to the formation of such a group if administrators helped to organize workshops on sexual misconduct and alcohol-induced medical emergencies. He added that administrators could coordinate meetings between fraternities and the Yale and New Haven Police Department to strengthen their relationships.
In contrast to the fraternity leaders interviewed, Joanna Wood ’13, Pi Beta Phi vice president of communications and president of the Yale Panhellenic Council, said the Pi Beta Phi sorority would “definitely” be interested in contributing to a leadership council to discuss Yale’s sexual climate. The Yale Panhellenic Council, which oversees sororities Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta, could also serve as a forum for discussion, Wood added. Representatives from Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta could not be reached for comment.
Yale undergraduates participate in at least 12 fraternities and sororities. According to the Student Organizations page of the Yale College website, only four Greek organizations are registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office.