I’ll start by saying this — I’ve been harassed in dining halls, at fraternity houses and on New Haven streets by Yale fraternity members and male athletes. On almost every occasion, I was alone. Each time, I was physically or verbally harassed unexpectedly and at my most vulnerable, with little knowledge of why or how I had become a target. By strangers, acquaintances and, on multiple occasions, by men that today I call my “friends.”

Even after these moments, their words — from “charity case” to “ghetto Black bitch” — continued to echo in my head. Fear paralyzed me as their discussions of my Black body and hair turned into taunts and fondling. Every incident included jeering and pointing, and some included spanking and screaming. Most, however, went unnoticed by the quiet or distracted fraternity members in the crowd of harassers and the “innocent” bystanders who felt no need to speak up. All incidents occurred without a single word or act of defense from me.

When I became the institutional service coordinator of Dwight Hall at Yale, I decided to focus my efforts on expanding the reach of our vision of public service and social justice. To me, that meant increasing service work in communities that are seen by the greater Yale community as either unable or unwilling to regularly engage in volunteering. I knew this would involve working with both Black and white male athletes and fraternity brothers who had absentmindedly physically and verbally harassed me on several occasions. I knew this would involve engaging with fraternities who have denied women of color entrance into their houses and sexually assaulted students who have not been given their rightful opportunity to speak up. And I knew that these actions were commonplace enough within their communities that many of these men would not remember what they had done or who I was. Despite feeling unsafe in their gaze, I decided to defend them not only within the walls of Dwight Hall, but to the administration and anyone else who had written them off as inherently racist, sexist or outright evil.

Beyond hours of angry tears or passing glares, I haven’t done much to expose the misogyny and racism within fraternities at Yale. Through Dwight Hall, I have tried to give several of them a chance to do better by facilitating volunteer opportunities and encouraging and organizing service projects. Additional volunteering has occurred in a few fraternities, but others have completely ignored the offer, and the underlying hope of their betterment through service has failed. In light of recent accusations over the weekend, I have been forced to recommend a complete suspension of Dwight Hall’s relationship with all fraternities because of the very same behavior I have worked so hard to look past. Through sober and structured conversation, I have given myself an opportunity to take a closer look inside the minds and physical spaces that encourage rape culture. I can now say I am unsatisfied and disgusted with what I see.

Before today, you had not heard my story. Unfortunately, even after today, the stories of harassment that women of color choose to share will continue to be discounted, ignored and trivialized. Now, however, I am sharing something that is much more than a story.

This is not simply an accusation. Make no mistake. This is a call to action.

Several of my classmates continue to defend brothers within these violently sexist and racist organizations by referencing their personal ignorance of the misogyny other women of color and I experience every day on this campus. I hope that my story — of a Black woman who gave Yale fraternities every chance to improve despite outstanding evidence that they are currently unwilling to do so — will cause all of you to reevaluate how you react to incidents of racism and sexism.

If you do not condone racism and misogyny, especially in fraternities, say it.

If you have enjoyed a fraternity party, but don’t agree with racist and misogynistic behavior, you are not alone; say it. If you are associated with Greek life through your friends or your own fraternity or sorority, it is your responsibility as a human being to publicly denounce inappropriate behavior from within organizations of which you are a part. Denounce the behavior, whether you choose to believe how or why it occurred. Those of us who have felt unsafe in a fraternity house are not interested in excuses or denials. We are only strengthened by your empathetic voices, and their impact on the opinions and behaviors of those around us.

I do not condone racism and misogyny, especially in fraternities. I said it. It’s now your turn.

Briana Burroughs is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at briana.burroughs@yale.edu .

  • yale007

    An incredibly brave and powerful piece. Thank you so, so much for writing it. This should be a wakeup call to all fraternities, the administration, and the student body to face facts and address the cultural problems that run deep within these groups.

  • cerealkiller

    Like a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, this column warms the heart.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Pure crap. I don’t believe a word of it.

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      I dunno: author has a fairly credible rep (though econ trumps AmStud *any* day and twice on Sundays). Even with some discounting, this article speaks more loudly (at least to me) than many others. On the downside–and here comes that “privilege” thing–I have never EVER heard on campus the specific (or even equivalent) phrases alleged to have been uttered — not even in jest; seriously, I think (or, prvilegedly, prefer to think) most Yalies don’t even know them (not cuz they’re “nice,” but cuz they’re often ignorant, culturally speaking). I *have* heard such things outnbout in N’Haven, tho…

      “I knew this would involve working with both Black and white male athletes and fraternity brothers who had absentmindedly physically and verbally harassed me on several occasions.” Okay, in addition to the pointedly political capitalization, one hopes that the harassment, esp. of the phys sort, was reported. The author is right: no place for this stuff at Yale–did she “speak up?”

      Weirdly, I can’t decide whether I hope these allegations are factual or “fake but accurate” (if you understand my meaning).

  • MC2017

    Thank you Briana. You are giving a voice to those who are afraid to speak, and rightfully so after seeing such horrible responses to legitimate accusations of racism and sexual assault. I too do not condone racism and misogyny on visible display in these fraternities. I won’t be silenced anymore. We will all be heard.

  • maleathlete

    Why do you generalize every single male athlete and fraternity member on this campus so thoughtlessly? As a male athlete and fraternity member I can assure you that anyone on my team, had they seen anything like that happen in the street/dining hall/etc, would’ve tore into the person doing it. If I notice people getting uncomfortable at the club, I pull them away and dance with them until whoever was making them uncomfortable goes away. I’ve done this with girls I don’t even know – and I’m gay, so I clearly have no perverse/sick interest in dancing with these girls. As a matter of fact, I’ve been sexually harrassed in my workplace and my boss has told people in my workplace while teaching CPR that “[she] wouldn’t give CPR to a homosexual because its contagious.” Also having experience with sexual assaults, I would NEVER allow anything like this to happen in my presence. I live my life by the mantra “Be who you needed when you grew up.” So for you to so casually condemn every fraternity member and male athlete without a single sentence saying “okay maybe all of you aren’t bad”, and to instead say “I’ve given them every chance” when you have NEVER met me, is incredibly offensive and honestly it’s ignorant. I would never “encourage rape culture”, which you would know if you knew me. But still, you have chosen to generalize me and throw me into your blanket statements.
    If I had generalized any group of people in this way (I’ve had negative interactions with people of all races and sexualities) I would’ve been TORN APART. I would’ve been called racist, and probably every swear word in the book. It is our duty as people to realize that no person is a representative of his or her whole. While admittedly you have tried to work closer with these groups – which I commend you for, honestly – you do not know every single fraternity member on campus, and you do not know every male athlete. You can’t make claims such as these.
    If you disagree with fraternities and would prefer not to associate with those who enjoy that scene, that’s 100% fine. If you would like to say that you’ve had bad experiences with fraternities/male athletes in the past, that’s 100% fine. But my problem comes when you make such generalized claims that include me in them. You don’t know me. You have not made the effort to get to know me. Don’t you dare say that I’ve “encouraged rape culture.” Rape is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. You mention being harrassed in the dining hall and mention the fraternity members in the crowd before mentioning the “innocent” bystanders – in my experience, dining halls are mostly non-fraternity members. This writing, whether intentional or not, makes them all look bad.

    • winter

      She isn’t saying that every athlete or fraternity member harasses women or is racist, just that this behavior is prevalent at frat parties and among athletes and tolerated. Given the recent stories about SAE and other frats, this is obvious. So, as this behavior is so common in these settings, we should look to fix that, not defend it. Indeed she even says ” If you are associated with Greek life through your friends or your own fraternity or sorority, it is your responsibility as a human being to publicly denounce inappropriate behavior from within organizations of which you are a part.” This clearly does not demonize all members of fraternities or athletes, but reminds them that, as members of these organizations, they have a role to play in keeping their spaces safe. You state your own actions upon seeing uncomfortable situations at parties. It’s good that you intervene. Everyone should. But the fact is, that most don’t, and that is something that must change.

      • maleathlete

        “gave Yale fraternities every chance to improve despite outstanding evidence that they are currently unwilling to do so”
        “Most, however, went unnoticed by the quiet or distracted fraternity members in the crowd of harassers and the “innocent” bystanders who felt no need to speak up.”
        “I knew that these actions [sexual assault, denying entrance to minorities (which, by the way, has not been proven)] were commonplace enough within their communities”
        ” I haven’t done much to expose the misogyny and racism within fraternities at Yale.”
        “I have given myself an opportunity to take a closer look inside the minds and physical spaces that encourage rape culture”
        “these violently sexist and racist organizations”

        There is no way that as a literate human you can tell me that she doesn’t make every fraternity on campus look bad. While she does include the quote saying speak up in regards to the racism/mysoginy in frats, she doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility that sometimes these sentiments are not present. Her comment is backhanded. She reminds us of our These sentiments, the way her writing portrays it, are always there. I don’t have a problem with her message. I think standing up is great. Speak out. But when she nominalizes her writing by doing this, she makes people that have nothing to do with this look bad. It’s selfish.
        Furthermore I’d like to point out that you’ve proven my point : “She isn’t saying that every athlete or fraternity member harasses women or is racist, just that this behavior is prevalent at frat parties and among athletes and tolerated.” If the activity is prevalent among the groups I’m in and I tolerate it, I am a scumbag. But she does not offer the possibility that it does not exist/that there are those who do not tolerate it. Thus the only portrayal given by this paper is that we are jerks.
        “If you do not condone racism and misogyny, especially in fraternities, say it.

        If you have enjoyed a fraternity party, but don’t agree with racist and misogynistic behavior, you are not alone; say it. If you are associated with Greek life through your friends or your own fraternity or sorority, it is your responsibility as a human being to publicly denounce inappropriate behavior from within organizations of which you are a part.”

        This is divisive as hell. She portrays it as ‘if you support these good values then you aren’t alone, we all agree with you, speak up’ and then IMMEDIATELY follows with ‘fraternity & friends you all need to check yourselves.’ She’s scolding fraternity & friends. In addition, “from within ORGANIZATIONS OF WHICH YOU ARE A PART” – I understand that she means that we can’t just stick up for our own people, and I agree with accountability, but the language is negligently hurtful. It makes it seem like the only racism and misogyny only exist in these “violently sexist and racist organizations”. So it is for all these reasons that I am pissed about this piece. Her message is fine but she selfishly distorts and victimizes innocent people to make her point seem more important. I’m not okay with her using me and my friends as a launching point for her own agenda.

        • skrillcosby

          Particularly because this has nothing to do with athletes, she just lumps them in with these “violently sexist and racist organizations”

        • SvenTheBold

          You wanna help? Speak up. Name yourself for who you are, if not by personal name, then by group name. You say your team is good? Then by all means, tell us: which one is it? Because the author either didn’t visit, didn’t notice, or couldn’t tell the difference, and figuring out which one of those options happened… that would be an important contribution to this story.

          • maleathlete

            Yeah right. First of all, I don’t think that my deeds need to be merited/verified with an identity. Secondly, did you see the way the campus turned on the girl that went on fox news? I know what happens to people who express ideas that don’t coinscide with what yale’s liberal PC culture agree with, and I don’t want to open up myself or any group to which I belong to that type of aggression. (also would like to make an obvious statement: other than saying that any team member of mine would’ve defended anyone being fondled/hurrassed in the dining hall, I do not represent any group of which I am a part)

          • Cmm2015

            I think one of the issues when people speak their stories of racism and sexism, is that people assume it’s an indictment on all individuals in that group. The issue is that systemically, on average, instances of bias and harassment go unchecked. It does not mean that every individual in that institution believes that is OK. (For example look at ableism – people aren’t even aware that many buildings they walk into are hardly wheelchair accessible buildings. Does that make them a scumbag? Or just uninformed?)

            Awesome that you are an ally when you see harassment happening; but if you have to take girls and dance with them to protect them from unwanted advances, could there be sexism at play? If these are your values (say, not harassing dancing women) and yet an organization/affiliation you belong to is hearing from multiple women that they are being harassed inappropriately, are you at least open to admitting there could be issues that you don’t see? I can’t say that I am always aware of anti-gay bias in the same way that someone walking down the street embracing their same sex lover may have to be. I am not always sensitive to amenities for the visually impaired (as a blind friend has recently taught me so much). I have a lot to learn from these perspectives, and many more.

            And if people say they have not had anyone interfere on their behalf, could that be grounds for some scolding? Would you scold the person who said the anti-gay comments you heard, or would that would be too harsh? If you experienced it repeatedly (and it sounds like you might have, and I’m sorry to hear that), would you be invalidated for everything you had experienced because you called such a setting ‘violently homophobic’? You and I are human, after all. Her condemnation hurt you. Her experiences of harassment, and disappointment that efforts to make change failed, hurt her. It would be pointless for me to be angered by how thoughtless and selfish you were towards heterosexuals, when the real issue is that you had to experience such awful harassment in the first place.

            Actually your ardor is a good sign – I suspect that channeling your experience to help (perhaps with the volunteer opportunities the author talks about?) will show that you validate her difficulties but also respect the athletic and fraternity institutions and that there are members like you.

          • maleathlete

            I appreciate basically everything except “it would be pointless for me to be angered by how thoughtless and selfish you were towards heterosexuals” because I never said anything about an entire group of people or heterobashed.
            As for volunteering, I have been volunteering already with groups that have personal meaning/connection to myself and those close to me – which is part of my frustration in being included in this defaming blanket statements.

          • SvenTheBold

            Opening up your group by naming it as a safe space for minorities… why would that attract the ire of the liberal PC culture at Yale again? Isn’t naming yourself as a person who would never be racist or sexist *exactly* what the liberals want?

            The entirety of your claim can be summed up as follows: that some frat bros / athletes aren’t racist / sexist. That should be nothing about that to attract anyone’s ire, let alone the ire of liberals.

            (Of course, there is one solution to the confusion. If you actually have no idea whether or not your team members would step up to defend someone being fondled/harassed in the dining hall, and just don’t want to admit it, that would explain your insistence on anonymity. It’s much easier to claim that you’re all good person when nobody knows who you are.)

          • maleathlete

            Did you not read my comment? People who disagree get screwed. I’ve disagreed with the author and called her out. Guarantee if I had posted this on overheard I would’ve gotten a fair amount of hate.
            You forget that people are pissed right now. When white students are told not to cry because “[their] white tears are diluting the black tears on this campus” and black students are called “uncle toms” and “traitors” for not blindly following popular opinion get PHYSICALLY SPIT ON, I’d rather not let these irrational spit-mouthed people know who I am.

    • yale_2010

      Dude you claim to be a male athlete and a fraternity member but then you say that you’re gay. Everyone knows you’re lying. There’s no way that any fraternity would let you in because they are inherently misogynistic and all about rape culture. (/sarcasm!!!).

      On a serious note: good for you and thank you for sharing your story.

      • maleathlete

        this actually made me laugh out loud hahaha

  • skrillcosby

    This is the most ridiculously unfounded, criminally unsubstantiated excuse for a piece of journalism I have ever seen. No substance, all generalizations and buzzwords

    • SvenTheBold

      “…discussions of my Black body and hair turned into taunts and fondling.”
      “Every incident included jeering and pointing, and some included spanking and screaming.”
      “Most went unnoticed by the quiet or distracted fraternity members in the crowd of harassers…”

      You’re trying to tell me that a vivid, specific description of a person’s firsthand experience qualifies as generalizations and buzzwords? Because that is literally the essence of journalism.

      Or are you simply saying that a firsthand experience isn’t well-substantiated enough, unless it included a body camera and signed witness testimony?

      This is the most ridiculously inane excuse for a criticism I have ever seen.

  • fruck

    Fraternities would already be banned from a campus with integrity. Alas, Yale still needs that old money and they’re not yet willing to embrace truly progressive concepts like discouraging BRO (i.e. rape) culture.

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      NEW HAVEN Feb 2015>> The fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been banned from activities on the Yale University campus until August 2016.

      http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20150213/yale-bans-fraternity-sigma-alpha-epsilon-until-2016

      • maleathlete

        they were already kicked off of campus. This was an off campus event.

    • the red pen

      How DARE you associate me with rape culture because I consider myself a bro. Not only is your entire comment ridiculous and incorrect (clearly you know absolutely nothing about Greek life and have chosen not to do your research before commenting on it) but the fact that you directly associate anyone who says or consideres themselves to be a “bro” with rape is disgusting. Educate and culture yourself before speaking in public please.

      • fruck

        Bro, you’ve already associated yourself with the culture. I didn’t do that.

        • the red pen

          Really, you’re going to associate me with rape culture, a 20 year old female? I’m going to choose to believe you have a twisted sense of humor.

          • helenofpeel

            Red herring argument. You set her up with misdirection. You can’t be part of “bro” culture if you’re not a male, dear. That goes by definition.

          • the red pen

            I disagree. Bro culture is a subculture to which anyone can choose to associate. It is closely associated to groups of people that like to hang out together and drink, usually heavily, but it also stereotypically incorporates surfers, lacrosse players, and investment bankers. Breaking away from the stereotype, many groups of friends refer to themselves and their peers as bros and believe they are part of bro culture. Based on your profile picture and the fact that you called me “dear”, you are old and therefore out of touch with current day notions of gender acceptance. You probably grew up in a strong heteronormative society, therefore making you closed-minded toward the gender inclusiveness that is experienced by today’s generation of students.

    • yale_2010

      What is rape culture?

      I was in a fraternity. I have no idea what you refer to as rape culture. And, frankly, I think it’s offensive that you stereotype and group all fraternities into one homogeneous mass instead of considering and critically examining the unique culture and history of each. Think about how offended you would be if I made generalized statements about minorities that lumped together African Americans and Hispanics etc.

      • fruck

        Look its okay if you’re offended. That’s just a consequence of dwelling in a free speech environment. Sorry if your feelings are hurt, bit I’m free to say whatever I wish.

  • maleathlete

    Who does cutting fraternities off from Dwight Hall hurt – the fraternities, or those who would’ve benefited from the volunteer work?

  • Gloria Monti

    This is my turn to speak: fraternities and sororities need to be closed (BA ’85, Ph.D. 00)

  • bluntobject

    My turn? I don’t believe you.

  • Martial

    It may be that the writer happens to be one of a half dozen victims of this garbage, as unlikely as that seems. Nothing can be done from a law enforcement perspective on the basis of one set of bad experiences. Vital is leaning how many others at Yale have had this happen to them, with as much specific detail as possible.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    As a black woman why do you want to be around men who are racist and abuse you?

    Black women are quick to call a black man out on everything they can find, but when it comes to white men they allow abuse just to be accepted.

    I don’t see anything wrong with that frat having a preference on the women they want to be with. If you and your friends had an all girls party for black women only or women only it would be ok.

    You chose to be abuse by racist and not report it to police all because you wanted to be accepted.

    Not being invited to a whites only party is not a battle that blacks need to fight.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    As a black woman why do you want to be around men who are rad!st and abuse you?

    Black women are qu!ck to call a black man out on everything they can find, but when it comes to white men they allow abuse just to be accepted.

    I don’t see anything wrong with that frat having a preference on the women they want to be with. If you and your friends had an all girls party for black women only or women only it would be ok.

    You chose to be abused by racist and not report it to the police all because you wanted to be accepted.

    Not being invited to a whites only party is not a battle that blacks need to fIght.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    As a black woman why do you want to be around men who are rad!st and abuse you?

    Black women are qu!ck to call a black man out on everything they can find, but when it comes to white men they allow abuse just to be accepted.

    You chose to be abused by racist and not report it to the police all because you wanted to be accepted.

    Not being invited to a whites only party is not a battle that blacks need to fIght.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    You chose to be abused by racist and not report it to the police all because you wanted to be accepted by whites.

    Not being invited to a whites only party is not a battle that blacks need to fIght.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    Not being invited to a whites only party is not a battle that blacks need to fIght.

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5btKu8d07vFdj1BUt5JYDQ Wepo1

    Stop begging to be accepted by whites. Black women make themselves look so desperate.

  • Jonny-O

    As a former Yale grad student, undergraduates have a pretty myopic view of these kinds of issues and where they apply. When I first came to the university 6 years ago, I remember near cross campus a female student standing dressed up in a poncho and sombrero holding an empty tequila bottle and acting drunk as some kind of hazing for one of the societies. My friends and I were suitably appalled, yet of the hundreds of students walking by her, where were the protests, the outrage? And what about the society members wandering around campus in black robes and eerie white masks? These are disturbing racially-charged symbols that undergrads seem to have no problem with (on the other hand, grad students and residents are regularly disturbed by them). Not to mention the big job fairs students flock to filled with companies who have established themselves on elitist,, racist policies. It seems compunctions about social justice have little value when it comes to self-promotion and job canvassing. What I find most appalling and most hypocritical about these desires for campus safe-spaces and concern for campus relations is how students at Yale of all stripes regularly repeat these various aggressions against New Havenites and people of the wider community, without any concern as to how they are marginalizing those who share the city with them .

    When undergraduates go on college sponsored benders at different clubs, how socio-economically exclusive are these events? Do they have any idea they are moving into a non-university space, a space belonging to all of New Haven, taking it over, and excluding and leaving out everyone who usually goes there to get a drink? I’ve seen regulars at bars turned away because the Yale kids had to have their exclusive fun at a bar other people frequent. How many of them shy away from walking around New Haven (“don’t go on the Green”), avoiding interactions with everyone not associated with your small university clique in the city and then treat outsiders in New haven with disdain, fear? From what I have seen, Yale students are excellent at colonizing the public spaces of New Haven, excluding all people who do not match their level of privilege, and forming a Yale-only space that takes no account of the community. Yale regularly shuts down streets, Yale students take over space on moving day with no concern as to how it affects New Havenites going about their jobs. Yale students regularly blare music and disrupt campus space so they can have their college fun at the expense of professionals and service workers (as well as average residents) going about their business. I won’t even mention the thousands of microaggressions I observed in my time perpetrated by Yale undergraduates on New Haven residents, nor the way the university has aggressively destroyed New Haven small business culture and non-privilege-centric businesses in the name of making the city safe and appealing for you undergrads. The university and students displace residents and destroy family businesses, drive up housing prices, without a care in the world, without a peep. Where’s the outcry from students about this? Have they ever considered that because of them and their institution and the army of administrators looking out for, standing behind, and protecting them that many New Havenites don’t feel safe in their own city, that they are challenged, belittled, criticized, and at the mercy of the Yale undergrads who have so many layers of protection and a full police force defending their interests? Where are the reminders to treat New Haven residents with respect? Is it the case that sensitivity need only apply on campus? It seems that the need to make other feel safe and be sensitive to others’ issues stops at the edge of campus. The students called Master Christakis disgusting; it is undergrads who are disgusting, flaunting their provilege and powers one minute, buying into and benefitting from the systemic racism, classism, and elitism from Yale and then claiming opposition to and innocence from it the next.