Despite a five-year ban that prohibits the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity from using campus resources or facilities, interviews with DKE members suggest that the restrictions have not significantly affected the group’s activities this semester.
After DKE pledges shouted offensive chants on Old Campus last fall, Yale College Dean Mary Miller announced in May that the Yale College Executive Committee had banned DKE from holding any events on campus — including recruiting and pledging activities — and from using Yale email or bulletin boards to communicate with students. Though DKE has held its regular parties and maintained its standard pledge class size this fall, four DKE members interviewed said the ban has led the group to consider more carefully its role on campus and re-evaluate its initiation process.
After issuing the ban, ExComm formally asked the DKE national organization to suspend the fraternity’s activities for five years, but DKE International Executive Director Douglas Lanpher released a statement in June declining the request. Miller said in a Monday interview that the University does not have the authority to limit the off-campus activities of DKE, which is an unregistered student organization.
“This is an institution with a very high value on the Bill of Rights, and particularly the First Amendment,” Miller said. “And they have the right to assemble.”
She added that DKE members, as Yale students, can still access student directories and websites to coordinate events. One DKE senior, who asked to remain anonymous because of the scrutiny surrounding the fraternity, said the ban has not significantly diminished the group’s ability to attract new members because it does not use “a very public recruiting process.” The organization usually advertises events through Facebook and reaches out to recruits through athletic teams, campus groups and friends of current members, he said, so it does not generally require campus facilities anyway.
This year’s pledge class had over 20 students and was larger than last year’s, according to one pledge rushing DKE who wished to remain anonymous. The pledge said that though he was not formally recruited by DKE members, he decided to pledge DKE because he had friends in the organization.
Peter Lake, director for the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, said when university administrators write regulations, they usually do not give themselves the power that they need to negotiate or regulate student groups.
“I find it typical that when administrators look to interject, they don’t have the tools they always want,” he said. “So it becomes a question of if the tools in place are in place to make remedies. [If they’re not], then you have to go back and change the [regulations].”
Still, administrators said the Dean’s Office has been monitoring DKE to ensure that the organization’s activities comply with Undergraduate Regulations. John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, said that he and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry spoke with DKE leaders this semester after hearing a rumor that the fraternity had met new members on campus for inductions. But after speaking with DKE leaders, Meeske said he and Gentry concluded that the organization had not violated any regulations.
Though the fraternity’s activities have generally continued as usual, DKE members said some of the organization’s leaders, including former DKE president Alex Birks ’12, were were asked to leave their posts last spring after ExComm released its decision.
Miller and Carol Jacobs, current ExComm chair, both declined to comment on the issue.
Lake said university officials can always “request,” but not necessarily “demand,” that campus leaders resign from their positions, adding that the extent of administrators’ authority depends on the terms of a college’s regulations.
Lanpher, who heads DKE’s national organization, said he hopes that DKE’s compliance with the Unversity’s restrictions will encourage administrators to lift the five-year ban before it is scheduled to end.
“Our goal is to once again become a fully recognized, contributing member of the Yale community,” Lanpher said.
DKE was founded in 1844 by 15 Yale undergraduates.