With new, conflicting details emerging around allegations that members of Yale’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon racially discriminated against partygoers at an event at the fraternity’s house Friday night, University administrators are working to determine the authenticity of the claims.
At the party, according to a Facebook post Neema Githere ’18 published the next day, a brother at the door of the house allegedly turned away a group of women of color, telling them the party was for “white girls only.” Although Githere was not in attendance Friday, her claims have sparked outrage on campus and attracted widespread attention from national media sources, including The Washington Post. Still, leaders of Yale’s chapter of the fraternity continue to categorically deny all allegations of racist conduct.
Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard said he has been in contact with six to eight students who were present for the incident in question, and he is working to find out what happened. Howard said he has also been meeting with residential college deans, freshman counselors and Yale SAE leaders, who are conducting their own investigation.
“If this did happen, and it sounds as if it may [have] — and I’m looking for confirmation on that — what do we do?” Howard said. “If there is a violation of policy, then that would be something that we would refer to the Executive Committee, like any other violation of University policy.”
Howard added, however, that there are challenges associated with putting University sanctions on a group that officially operates independently of the University, even if many Yale students are a part of it. In February, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced that SAE would be banned from campus until August 2016 for violating the University’s sexual harassment policies. Holloway declined to comment on the recent allegations against SAE , though he said his office is looking into the matter.
Sofia Petros-Gouin, a freshman at Columbia University who visited Yale Friday night, said she was outside the SAE house between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. and witnessed a white fraternity member put his hand out to block a group of predominantly black and Hispanic girls from entering. Petros-Gouin said she heard the brother say, “No, we’re only looking for white girls.”
She said the brother then singled out a blonde girl at the bottom of the stairs and said, “That’s what we’re looking for.” He then allowed a group of white girls to enter the party, Petros-Gouin alleged.
Though Yale SAE President Grant Mueller ’17 denied that these events took place, he did describe one racially charged incident and noted that Petros-Gouin could have been mistaking this encounter for the scene she described.
Mueller noted that three SAE members — one Caucasian, one black and one Costa Rican — were manning the front door to the fraternity all night.
“We know at one point the brothers at the door had someone come up to the door, try to get in and she loudly said, ‘It’s ‘cause I’m black,’ [that she was not admitted],” Mueller said. “I believe, according to the brothers who were there at the time, she went downstairs to the sidewalk to a group of students and repeated, ‘They’re not letting black girls in.’ It’s possible that was the same incident, but again nothing was actually said to her along those lines that she can’t come in because she’s black.”
One of the doormen, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Mueller’s account.
Mueller also said that during the time frame Petros-Gouin described, the fraternity would have had no reason to turn her away because there were very few people inside the house. Furthermore, the police were outside the house from 11:20 p.m. to around midnight, during which time Mueller said he instructed the doormen not to let anyone in and to clear the porch. He added that he held individual meetings with every member of SAE, and that no brothers described an incident similar to the one Petros-Gouin recounted.
A white female student who attended the party and asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue said the attendees were racially diverse. She added that when she arrived at the party sometime after midnight, the doormen were not letting any more students in, but she was let in after she called a friend in the fraternity to come get her at the door.
“I walked in with a woman of color, but I don’t particularly remember if there were many other students of color there or not,” another attendee, who asked to remain anonymous for the same reason, told the News.
Additionally, on Monday the Post quoted a male Yale student, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of backlash from fraternity members, stating that he tried to enter the party sometime after midnight but was stopped at the door while his female friends were let in.
“When I first came up to the door they said, ‘Who the [expletive] do you think you are — you’re clearly gay,’” he told the Post.
The student told the Post he was concerned about friends inside the party who had too much to drink and attempted to follow a different group of friends into the party but fraternity members pulled him back by his hair and arm. In the 20 minutes he spent on the steps outside, he said, a white fraternity member shouted, “White girls only. We’re only looking for white girls.” He said the same brother then physically pushed an African-American female away from the door.
Mueller said a student did try to force his way into the party by pushing over the Costa Rican doorman, but the doorman then stood up and asked him to leave. Mueller said at that point SAE was not letting in any more students as per instructions from Yale Police. Mueller told the News that the New Haven Police had also visited the house earlier that night, warning that SAE would receive citations for an overly crowded and noisy party.
SAE’s national headquarters released a statement Monday addressing the allegations and stating that based on preliminary information the organization has received, fraternity members stopped admitting guests to the house after receiving a noise complaint from the New Haven Police Department about the party.
When asked for specific details about the incident, SAE’s national spokesman Brandon Weghorst declined to answer any further questions and referred to the official statement.
“Our chapter at Yale University is comprised of a diverse group of students, and similarly, the social event included a diverse number of attendees,” the statement said. “However, we will continue to investigate this allegation to determine additional information.”
In light of the weekend’s events, Mueller said he and other brothers will attend an open forum hosted at the Afro-American Cultural Center on Wednesday to discuss the experiences of students of color and the protection of freedom of speech. The forum will be moderated by administrators on the Intercultural Affairs Committee and is titled “[Ad]dressing Appropriation and the Power of Language.” Mueller added that he has also discussed Friday’s events with Githere.
The national organization of SAE was founded in 1856.