An organization on this campus has been accused of blatant racism. And, in the past, sexual harassment as well. In light of these allegations, we pose this question: Would you still attend a party or mixer at SAE?
Two years ago, SAE’s initiation ritual was found to have violated the University’s sexual misconduct policies. The Yale administration banned the fraternity from campus, yet students continued to flock to SAE’s parties and Thursday late-nights. Now the organization has been accused of allowing only “white girls” inside their house. Similar accusations against SAE have surfaced in the past, and they aren’t just coincidence. They form a pattern of racism and misogyny that we, Yale students, have the power to stop. After this initial outrage subsides, will we continue to turn a blind eye?
Some have made the argument that this past weekend’s events come down to hearsay. These arguments play into a long and problematic tradition of distrusting the accounts of women of color. Moreover, that’s not the point — the fact is that students were made to feel targeted and uncomfortable because of their race. Comments on the original Facebook post convey that this is not an isolated incident and that many students have felt discriminated against by SAE’s behaviors.
SAE’s president has continued to make the point that the organization is diverse in terms of race and sexual orientation. That is irrelevant. SAE may have diverse membership but some of its members have acted in prejudiced ways regardless. They have created a social space that does not welcome students of all races and sexual orientations. This is not something that can be undone by simply accepting a few more members who aren’t white, straight and wealthy.
SAE has been part of a trend of racist, misogynist and classist incidents and it is our responsibility as members of this community to condemn that. When an organization is involved in so many instances of misconduct, it’s clear that these are not just aberrations. SAE has created an environment of privilege, one in which students feel empowered to target others for their race, sexual orientation and gender. That’s not something our community should tolerate. Indeed, SAE nationally has been the subject of myriad instances of abuse and hate. The chapter at the University of Oklahoma was filmed singing a racist song. The chapter at Stanford was put on probation after its members harassed female students and pressured them not to file Title IX complaints.
All too often, we leave it to Yale’s administration to censure Greek organizations for their misdeeds. But as Dean of Student Engagement Burgell Howard told the News, the University has limited power to sanction organizations that operate off campus. That means that we can’t afford to keep punting responsibility. We have to take action. In addition to speaking out, we can do something powerful and simple: Stop going to SAE. Stop mixing with SAE. Come spring, don’t rush SAE.
For those speaking out against SAE’s behavior, we have to make our actions align with our words. For the white girls in line at SAE who get pulled up to the front: Don’t go inside. Creating racist and sexist spaces at Yale hurts all of us, even the ones who ostensibly benefit from the behavior.
As a Greek organization with a space for hosting parties, SAE has social capital — students go to their parties and formals, and sororities continue to mix with them. But we’ve granted them that capital. It’s a power we can easily take away. The problem is not just SAE; it’s the Yale students crowding around SAE’S door to be let in.
If we continue to accept SAE’s role as a dominant social force on this campus, we are tacitly condoning their behavior. It’s easy enough to take a photograph with your sorority proclaiming “It’s On Us.” But that means nothing unless we actually act on that slogan.
We’ve seen some signs of hope in the outrage that emerged after this weekend’s encounter. Individual members of SAE have announced that they will deactivate. This week, Theta canceled their upcoming mixer with SAE. Pi Phi planned a forum to discuss issues of race and Greek life. These are small gestures, but they matter. We understand that people enjoy SAE — but a fun time out should not come at the expense of someone else’s experience of racism and misogyny.
SAE has benefited from its privilege and entitlement. But they’re not the only ones with power in this situation. Social norms change behavior, and we as Yale students dictate these norms. The norm should be that we reject organizations accused of sexual harassment, racism and discrimination. Let’s not wait for the next allegation against SAE. SAE cannot institute a racist door policy if no one is at its door.
Jenny Allen is a senior in Trumbull College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emma Goldberg is a senior in Saybrook College. Her column usually runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact her at email@example.com .