After a formal investigation by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is facing several sanctions: a ban on on-campus activities, a ban on communication via Yale University email systems and bulletin boards and a prohibition on the use of the name SAE in connection with the University. These sanctions will be in place until August 2016.

In a college-wide email Friday morning, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway informed the community of the complaint that inspired the investigation, which was first opened by the UWC last year. In the email, Holloway explained that SAE had been found in violation of the University’s policies on sexual misconduct and included a letter jointly written by the members of the fraternity summarizing the incident.

According to the letter from the fraternity brothers, the complaint involved a presentation made at a February 2014 initiation ceremony. In addition, the letter said, members of the fraternity were found to have impeded the resulting investigation.

A statement from SAE national headquarters indicated it had launched a separate investigation and found that two members had made inappropriate comments about a female student at a private chapter event, in the presence of other members. While the offensive actions in question were isolated to two individuals, the statement continued, all SAE brothers are expected “to act as gentlemen at all times.”

The headquarters, which added that it does not condone demeaning or derogatory language, also imposed its own sanctions on Yale’s chapter, including mandated sexual assault and harassment training for all members.

Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communications for SAE’s national organization, confirmed to the News that the two members involved had graduated from the University since the incident last year.

In addition to listing the University sanctions, SAE’s letter in the email described steps the fraternity has taken to improve its internal culture. Among them were meetings with the dean of student affairs and communication and consent educators, as well as national leadership training for three officers this past fall. Friday’s announcement comes less than a year after SAE eliminated its pledging process for new members nationally.

“Through working with the University and other professionals, we believe that we have made legitimate progress in this area,” the brothers of SAE said in a statement to the News.

Six members of the fraternity contacted declined to comment individually, and nine more did not respond to requests for comment.

Holloway told the News in an email that he chose to share the information with the community at this particular point because enough time had passed for SAE to respond constructively to the sanctions.

In his campus-wide email, Holloway explained that although he was sharing the organization’s name and some details of the complaint with the campus community, he was still upholding UWC confidentiality policies by not disclosing identities of the individuals involved.

While confidentiality is crucial in any UWC proceeding, Holloway told the News, there is also an important distinction to be made between individuals and groups. In cases involving groups — which have their own status independent of individuals — the demand for sharing information is higher, he said.

UWC Chair David Post echoed Holloway, adding that while the vast majority of cases will continue to be reported only in the University’s semiannual Reports of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct, the administration will inform the community in cases where sanctions affect the way in which an organization interacts with the larger student body. Still, all five students interviewed said they do not believe Holloway’s announcement will deter students from attending SAE parties at its off-campus house.

Holloway also added that he hopes sharing such information will help better inform the community on the processes behind sexual misconduct complaints.

“It is my hope that in sharing information with the community — in cases when I can preserve confidentiality — I can provide additional transparency to the University’s procedures and at the same time place them within their broader educational context,” Holloway said in an email to the News.

Alexa Derman ’18, public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, said that though blaming fraternity culture for sexual misconduct would be an oversimplification that does little to address the issue’s core issues, holding organizations accountable for their behavior — especially organizations like SAE that figure prominently in Yale’s social scene — sends a strong message to other groups about their responsibility to contribute to a positive sexual climate on campus.

University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler did not return a request for comment.

In both the letter included in Holloway’s email and the fraternity’s statement to the News, the brothers emphasized that the incident last February did not represent the values of the fraternity. The fraternity’s statement added that the presentation in question had not been supported by the fraternity, nor were members of the fraternity aware of its content before its delivery.

Moving forward, the letter added, SAE’s brothers will strive to promote respect and tolerance on campus and to be a safe, positive social outlet.

The latest semiannual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct, published Feb. 5, contained an update to a previously pending complaint by a Yale College student against Yale College students for sexual harassment and retaliation. The complaint’s resolution stated that a student organization had been found responsible for impeding the investigation and creating a hostile environment. Consequently, the report said, the organization’s activities had been suspended for two years. The report, however, does not explicitly state which organization it is referring to.

Yale’s chapter of SAE was founded in 1988.

This article has been revised to reflect the version published in print on Feb. 16, 2015.

 

  • puffthejapanesedragon

    Is it just me, or does SAE’s apology fail to show real contrition?

    It seems like the fraternity is doing its best to distance itself from that member, even though the presentation occurred at an SAE-sanctioned event. Why didn’t SAE take internal action after seeing this presentation, if it was so objectionable? Why does SAE fail to mention that some of its members actively sought to disrupt a University investigation?

    SAE’s email strikes me as a dishonest attempt at damage control, not a sincere apology to the Yale community

    • theburren

      Maybe SAE doesn’t regard Yale’s verdict or investigation as legitimate. Hell, even I don’t really regard it as legitimate. If there was a crime committed, why isn’t the NHPD investigating? The last time I checked, the NHPD is the police force in New Haven. Yale can’t be allowed to operate as a state within a state; Connecticut and New Haven’s laws don’t stop existing once you enter the Yale colleges. This shouldn’t be under Yale’s jurisdiction, since Yale shouldn’t even have a jurisdiction.

      • NHPDHartman

        The NHPD can only investigate complaints brought to their attention.
        More often than not, such “off campus” incidents involving students
        aren’t shared with our investigators. When it comes to sexual assault
        cases, we don’t disclose any information to the public to protect the
        victim and the case integrity – unless there’s a continued threat to the
        public from a suspected offender or offenders.

        As to combating
        underage drinking, the State Department of Consumer Protection is the
        lead enforcement agency as they’re the ones able to best sanction the
        permit holders. When it comes to individuals in bars, pubs and clubs
        drinking underage, we have the largest number of Officers dedicated to
        our nightlife district in the state – bar none.

        The problem is underage drinking or “pre-gaming” and “post-gaming” on private property (including fraternity houses).

        Without
        a real complaint from an identifiable person, we have no right to walk
        on in. Can you imagine the YDN story if NHPD Officers went door-to-door
        checking living rooms, kitchens and basements of frat houses and off
        campus student housing.

        The only way to send the message that
        sexual assault will be investigated and prosecuted by every means
        necessary is to investigate and prosecute every reported sexual assault.
        I’m certain that the YPD operates with the same conviction. If you’re a
        victim, report the assault. If you know a victim, urge them to do the
        same.

        Officer David Hartman, NHPD

        • theburren

          Yeah, I know – and this is a serious problem. The University needs to encourage students to report sexual assaults to the NHPD, which is the only organization that I trust to handle investigations properly, fairly, and justly. Nothing I heard in freshman orientation ever mentioned that reporting sexual assaults to the NHPD was even a possibility – the CCEs instead spent their time having fun with froyo skits. That’s a failure on the part of the University. I would encourage the Title IX Coordinator to rethink the University’s policies on sexual assault education, because right now, they’re narrow-minded and lacking.

      • puffthejapanesedragon

        A violation of university policy is not necessarily a criminal matter. That’s why NHPD/YPD are not involved. However, this doesn’t diminish the gravity of the matter.

        • theburren

          Sexual assault is a criminal matter. The NHPD/YDP aren’t involved since nobody reported it as a crime. That’s a problem, I’d say. Sexual assaults need to be reported to the police.

          • peconic1960

            Give me a break. This wasn’t assault. It was “disparaging comments at a private meeting.” You think saying disparaging things is a crime now? Perhaps only when people you don’t like are making the comments…

      • TheDisquietingMuses

        I’d also like to see more cases brought to the criminal justice system (although this particular case apparently did not involve criminal activity), but without denying the Yale administration’s parallel authority to investigate. Even in the case of criminal activity Yale needs to retain the option of disciplinary action for so many reasons. Just two of them are: a) The criminal justice system will not always choose to pursue an investigation or a prosecution. They have limited resources (an oversimplified comparison – ever try to get your local police department to investigate a case of ‘moderate’ theft? I got no further than filing a police report for insurance purposes). b) Yale has much wider latitude than the criminal justice system to determine both probable guilt/innocence and disciplinary action because in the end, they will not be depriving anyone of liberty. At most they will deprive someone of a Yale degree, which is not an inalienable right. That’s why they are not running a state within a state.

        There’s no either/or here. A disciplinary review can be conducted alongside a police investigation. A victim always retains the right to go to the police, although the campus review process might be less traumatizing and disruptive to her/his life and the consequences will be less dire for the suspect if s/he is found to have committed a violation of campus policy. It seems clear to me that given the growing volume of sexual assaults and misconduct on college campuses, administrations need to vastly improve their ability to address the issue properly. And more of the cases that actually involve a crime rather than a policy violation should be reported to the police.

  • anubis

    Meanwhile the DKE ban ends next year…are things changing or just staying the same?

    • eli1

      I wouldn’t mind seeing a “DKE: 5 Years Later” article to see whether things are indeed changing for the better, or just being better hidden off campus.

      • anubis

        To ask the question is to answer it

  • theburren

    I’d like to see the YDN do an extended report on the complaint, the investigation, and the disciplinary procedure. This paper has done a great job of writing about sexual assault in the past, and I think its reporters could do it again.

    There’s a larger point here, one about the nature of fraternities themselves. I’m inclined to think that, in an ideal world, the University should ban them, but that’s never going to happen. Here’s the thing – if you want to stop these sorts of sexual assaults, you’re going to have to change the entire culture. And that would require actually enforcing drinking laws. Yale should stop turning a blind eye to student drinking – “it’s fine as long as you don’t end up in Yale Health” – and should start taking ownership of the behavior of its students. Yale’s policy right now seems to much like “Well, we can’t stop them from drinking, so we’re just going to let them get drunk to their hearts’ content.” But students are malleable creatures. Our behavior is not intransigent. If Yale and the NHPD actually enforced state law, there would likely be fewer sexual assaults. And I think we can all agree that that’s an honorable goal.

    • anubis

      This second paragraph sort of confuses and conflates a lot of things. For one thing, increasing amounts of research show that most sexual assailants are serial assailants, and that alcohol is a convenient excuse/cover for actions they’d be willing to take anyway, rather than a chemical propulsion towards them from people who are otherwise not predatory. (take a look at Jaclyn Friedman’s website for more numbers). For two, zero tolerance approaches to substance abuse, on a legal level, are a massive failure at changing behavior and a huge waste of resources. Better to reduce the drinking age to 18 so it doesn’t HAVE to be illegal, so colleges can do their own serving of beverages and young adults [as that is what college students are] can learn to drink responsibly without fearing legal limbo. (In the 70s when the drinking age was 18, residential colleges had BARS.)

      • theburren

        It’s true that the university drinking culture in the UK is probably, all things considered, much better than the one we have here. But that doesn’t mean that drinking isn’t also a serious problem there. Look at any UK newspaper and you’ll see articles decrying the state of drinking, talking about how all that young people want is to get really drunk really fast. It’s the same thing here. These kids aren’t drinking because it’s illegal; they’re drinking because they want to drink. Reducing the drinking age to 18 would certainly bring more drinking into the open, but it wouldn’t change the problem of binge drinking. Kids are going to drink anyway, and reducing the drinking age would mean that even more kids are going to do it.

        My concern with the relation between alcohol and sexual assault is that the infusion of alcohol into sexual relations creates genuinely ambiguous situations which no law can really deal with. Much of the left advocates the dismantling of the basic rights of the accused in trials – innocent before proven guilty. I’m concerned that the liberal (not leftist) ideal of laws, the ideal which has driven Western republicanism since Lexington and Concord, fails in the case of sexual assault. There’s no solution I can think of, but I know that creating dual-jurisdiction systems between a city and a university is certainly no way of going about it. Sexual assault is too important an issue to be trusted to a university’s bureaucracy.

        • winter

          This sentiment jars me and I find it very problematic, because, by blaming sexual assault on alcohol, we are inadvertently blaming the victim for what happened to them. “She should not have been drinking” is too close to “she should not have been wearing a short skirt”. People don’t actively do things drunk that they would never think of doing sober–it just loosens their inhibitions about it. That means that people who rape do so not just because they are drunk, but because some part of them, even sober, thinks that it is okay. While alcohol is often used as a convenient cover, it is not the cause. People are the cause. We need to people to understand proper consent requirements and respect for others.

          • TheDisquietingMuses

            Here’s the difference as I understand it: “She should not have been wearing a short skirt” was born as a code that meant the woman had invited the assault; that she’d ‘asked for it.’ Or at ‘best,’ that she had irresponsibly triggered an urge that wasn’t within the perpetrator’s power to resist, ‘causing’ him to become an assailant. Those were common beliefs not so long ago. Nowadays, reasonable people do not believe these things. At least not if they really stop to think about it. Nor do they believe getting drunk at a party invites assault (or absolves perpetrators). Rather, those who would advise students to avoid getting insensibly drunk are attempting to remind those students of their own agency in a far-from-perfect society. Wearing a longer skirt (or pants) will not meaningfully protect anyone from assault. Being sober might, depending on circumstances.

            Yalies, you apparently live in a dangerous neighborhood and I don’t mean New Haven. The entire Yale community (and beyond) bears responsibility to make the neighborhood safer. Personally, I’d like to see many more perpetrators get suspended, expelled, arrested, incarcerated, etc. I’d also like to see even more of a grass-roots movement develop. Maybe student volunteers could form patrol rotations to help others get safely back to their dorms at night, along the lines of the ‘designated driver’ idea (if this isn’t already happening)? In the unfortunate meantime, be aware that while getting drunk will not invite rape, assault or other misconduct, it will seriously impede your ability to protect yourself from such. That’s something within your own power to control immediately. Yes, I know you should not need to limit your freedom in order to be safe. But until more people are unequivocally committed to respecting each other’s boundaries, abstinence or controlled drinking are precautions you can choose. And let’s face it. There are plenty of other good reasons not to get drunk. In closing, however you choose to do it, please be safe and help each other be safe.

  • silliman13

    The article should be clearer that this is not at all a case about sexual assault. Too vague.

  • anonymous

    These events have not changed anything at all: SAE voted to NOT change their internal rush activities last semester! They are only doing what they must to get along with the University (and they’re doing a poor job at that). It’s not the drinking, although perhaps the drugs are reinforcing the real problem: a group of children, committed to a culture of disdain for women and against any standards of morality, who are learning for the first time that perhaps their parents aren’t going to be able to save them from their world of no consequences forever

  • eli1

    I dont understand the nature of the “presentation” and how it constitutes sexual assault. Would love to see some clarification and details from the YDN!

    • highstreet2010

      Not assault, harassment. If you make lewd statements about a Yalie and then go on Yale’s campus, that’s creating an intimidating academic environment and you are a sexual harasser. It’s right there in the UWC handbook.

      In any case it sounds more like a) the administration wants to suspend fraternities whenever they can find an excuse and b) the idiots got caught lying to the committee. The actual harassment doesn’t seem to be that bad (edit: oblig this is speculation, it could really be bad and just a good deal for the kid); the student involved was just put on probation if you read the UWC report, and that’s after ‘retaliating’ as well. The fraternity got hit much harder, which leads me to think that this is less about the actual harassment and more about getting rid of the frats. Is there an idiom for ‘so it goes’ in Greek?

      • charliewalls

        Given the small size of Yale and the even greater reductions to college groups, a return to the days without fraternities could not harm the Yale experience. And the national image of the SAE brand, plus the Yale bowl truck crash, hardly recommends…!

  • unetudiantengage

    “[…] members of the fraternity were found to have impeded the resulting investigation.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if SAE’s being shut down were more of a response to this than the actual sexual harassment.

  • rick131

    What was the assault and what was the cover up?

  • branford73

    “Inappropriate comments” (read “lewd”?) about a female student at a private meeting (meaning not broadcast and not directed at or heard by the student?) by two frat members no longerr on campus. Is that it? Wow. Please YDN publish what the comments were so that all members of the Yale community (including visiting alums) don’t stumble onto a speech code violation and get kicked off campus.

    I’m no fan of fraternities but this is ridiculous. It would not hold up at a state university subject to First Amendment restrictions. Yale again shown to be less free than UConn?

  • Pitha Wurk

    yea graduate the criminals and then cover your butt afterwards….Yale deans u r a piece of work.