Members of the Yale Police Department descended on Vanderbilt Hall Friday evening, searching a freshman suite to investigate an alleged sexual assault.
On Friday afternoon, YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins sent a campus-wide alert reporting that an alleged incident of sexual assault had occurred in a “residential room” on campus Wednesday night. Shortly before 6 p.m. on Friday, roughly a dozen police officers entered Vanderbilt, preventing students from approaching a suite on the third floor, in a part of the building that houses Branford College freshmen. According to one Vanderbilt resident, who asked to remain anonymous, the police remained there for 24 hours.
What transpired during the 24 hours that police remained stationed in Vanderbilt remains unclear. It could not be learned whether the student was removed from the residence hall or whether he remained there during the 24-hour period. The alleged perpetrator did not respond to a request for comment.
A freshman who lives in Vanderbilt, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic, said he was interviewed Friday evening by the YPD at the department’s headquarters on Ashmun Street. He said police were attempting to determine whether the female student who had reported the case had provided an accurate description of the scene.
The freshman said he was asked to describe the alleged perpetrator’s personality, the events of Wednesday night and his own interactions with the female, if any, as well as what time he thought the alleged assault had occurred.
At least two other students who may have witnessed an interaction between the alleged perpetrator and the victim were also interviewed by the YPD on Friday.
The YPD referred all requests for comment to University Spokesperson Tom Conroy, who would not discuss the specifics of Higgins’s email or the police presence in Vanderbilt Hall. He said the University and the police are committed to fully supporting victims, informing them of all University resources and complaint processes should they choose to use them.
Conroy said the police are required by the federal Clery Act to notify the Yale community of reported sexual assaults, regardless of whether a victim of an assault contacted the police directly, the police learn of the assault from a third party or the police receive an anonymous report.
“A notification message from the police does not necessarily mean that a criminal complaint has been filed, that a complaint will be filed or that the University is aware of the identities of the individuals involved in the reported incident,” Conroy said.
Of 16 freshmen interviewed by the News, eight confidently linked the subject of Friday’s investigation to the events reported in Higgins’s email. Three students near the entryway at the time — who claimed to know the student in question — said he had a reputation for being “sexually aggressive.”
A student with knowledge of the alleged perpetrator’s whereabouts and interactions Wednesday night said he was confident that the alleged perpetrator had engaged in sexual intercourse that night.
Students who live in the suite where the alleged assault occurred were denied access to their room and were told by police officers that they would not able to stay in their suite overnight.
When asked on Friday evening about the circumstances of the police officers’ entry into Vanderbilt, one YPD officer said that students will “find out soon enough.”
Other officers on the scene declined to comment. Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner, who helps oversee the YPD, Branford Master Elizabeth Bradley and Branford Dean Hilary Fink could not be reached for comment.
The investigation in Vanderbilt occurred on the same day news surfaced that a Southern Connecticut State University student had accused a Yale student of rape.
One survivor of sexual assault on Yale’s campus, who wished to remain anonymous to protect their identity, told the News that they were simultaneously disgusted and frightened by the events of Friday night. They said the administration should have alerted the community after the two reports to remind students of the University’s definition of sexual consent.
“Yale is meant to be a knowledgeable place where students think rationally and logically, and events like these make me question all of that,” they said.
This survivor did not report their case to the YPD or the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, saying the process is a long and difficult one for students recovering from the trauma of sexual assault. They added that students affected by the weekend’s events — whether victims, allies or other students acquainted with the case — should know they are not alone in their concerns.
The Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center can be contacted at 203-432-2000.