When people ask me what I like about Yale, I talk about the social scene. The diversity of social activities, the interesting people and the great friends I have made. A large factor in Yale’s social fabric is the openness of its parties. As a freshman, I attended social events in all kinds of settings — dorms, frats, social clubs like Fence, sports houses and residential college screws. This inclusivity is in stark contrast to many others schools, like Harvard and Princeton, where almost all parties have guest lists. As a Yale freshman, I felt the sense that I could go anywhere I wanted and be invited in at the door.
But for some, this is not the case. The accusations made against Sigma Alpha Epsilon this weekend have pushed this conversation to the forefront. As someone who takes pride in the openness of Yale’s social culture, I find this most recent controversy especially concerning. We should be doing as much as we can to make Yale a welcoming place to all students.
For the most part, SAE is a fixture of the open party culture at Yale. Whether or not you choose to attend their nearly weekly events, SAE consistently offers an open space for Yalies to mix with friends and meet new people. Over the past few years, SAE has faced more accusations of misconduct at their door than other fraternities at Yale. They also, however, experience overcrowding more often than any other fraternity because of this commitment to openness. This is not to say that these accusations should be dismissed, but it is important to consider the pressures under which SAE serves as a host.
The scene at SAE last Friday night was hectic. SAE struggled to reject hoards of people from their doors due to capacity. Their house was packed with students and the police had already come by with a warning. Occasionally, a girl or boy would manage to squeeze through the door, prompting one of the brothers to go inside to retrieve that person. The scene was what one would expect of a frat party: intoxicated large crowds in a small space. It was not a scene I enjoyed, and it reminded me why I had not been to an SAE party this year. It was the kind of chaotic scene in which confusion was rampant.
This is not to refute the events that reportedly occurred last Friday, but to provide context for the situation it may have occurred in.
SAE may not be a paragon of diversity. And if the accusations made against the organization are true, it warrants serious action from the Yale community. Whether or not the incident reported occurred, it is especially concerning that students at Yale do not feel comfortable in certain environments on the basis of their appearance.
I want to warn, however, against broad actions against Greek life without consideration of all consequences. The solution for Greek organizations is simple: stop throwing open parties.
I am afraid, however, that this will do more to segregate our community and less to encourage a diverse, open social environment for students.
I do not want Yale to become a place where the only social events you can attend are those to which you receive a formal invitation. Guest lists provide even greater risk of discrimination. Especially as a freshman, it creates a situation in which those with pre-existing social connections are the only ones who can be social. I met some of my best friends here at Yale at open parties we both happened to wander into. Yale’s organizations should all work toward creating a more inclusive environment with the awareness that prejudice of any form will not be tolerated.
As we try to understand and respond to the accusations against SAE, let us not lose sight of the many things that make Yale’s social scene a source of pride for our school. Perhaps frat parties are not your preferred social setting. Perhaps they are. The important thing is that inclusive options exist for students in many forms.
Marisa Lowe is a junior in Pierson College. She is a former Production & Design editor on the Managing Board of 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .