As concerns about sexual assault involving Greek organizations at Yale persist, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Jason Killheffer has been meeting with the leaders of fraternities and sororities, first-year counselors, Communication and Consent Educators and representatives from Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale and Engender over the past couple of weeks to receive suggestions on how to improve the sexual climate on campus.
After the News and Business Insider published articles about sexual assaults perpetrated by members of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced in February that Killheffer would “conduct a review of the recent concerns brought forward alleging a hostile sexual environment at DKE, as well as assess concerns brought to his attention about the culture of other student groups.” Chun also announced that the Yale College Committee on Social Life and Community Values — which is chaired by Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar — would be tasked with establishing priorities and making specific recommendations to improve campus culture.
“Your perspectives (whether gleaned from personal experience or in themes and experiences relayed to you by others) will provide valuable context and insight about our campus culture. With this in mind, I am inviting you to share your experiences and impressions with me,” Killheffer wrote in an email to leaders of the relevant student groups, a copy of which was provided to the News. “[The] information shared with us during our discussions will … assist us in identifying themes or patterns of conduct that may warrant further attention, consideration or intervention by the University.”
But Killheffer declined to comment on what he discussed with student groups during those meetings, saying he cannot share the “information that comes to [his] attention as part of the review.” Representatives from the sororities Alpha Phi, Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta and the fraternities DKE, Beta Upsilon Chi, Chi Psi, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Sigma Chi, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Zeta Psi, as well as project coordinators in the CCE program did not respond to requests for comment.
According to Natalie Schultz-Henry, a co-director of communications for Engender, the topic of sexual misconduct at DKE was “only briefly mentioned” at Engender’s meeting with Killheffer. Schultz-Henry said DKE is not unique among fraternities in its culture of sexual coercion and that the conversation between Engender and Killheffer focused on what the University can do to promote a healthier sexual climate more broadly.
Members of Engender suggested implementing more workshops on consent and sexual assault for first years during Camp Yale as a short-term solution, according to Gabe Roy ’21, another co-director of communications at Engender. Roy added that representatives from Engender emphasized the necessity of funding alternative social options outside single-gender Greek-life organizations.
“We were heartened to see how receptive Mr. Killheffer was on all points,” Schultz-Henry said. “As positive as this was, a meeting is only that. We hope to continue working with them to make sure the rest of the Yale administration understands how serious a threat Greek culture poses to our student body and implements policy that will make the undergraduate experience at Yale safer and more equitable for all its students.”
Aside from meeting with Killheffer, Engender is talking with the administration about introducing a new gender-inclusive social group, Roy said. He added that while the board members of Engender have considered working with an outside society to establish a chapter at Yale, the group is also thinking about starting a new social organization.
In an email to the News, co-president of Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale Abby Leonard said that although Killheffer reached out to the organization in late March, Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale has not been able to meet with him because of scheduling conflicts. Leonard said that USAY plans to suggest that Yale create an anonymous online reporting system for sexual misconduct, centralize resources for survivors and students and administer more student surveys on the campus sexual climate.
“We are optimistic that by expanding the dialogue with students regarding Yale’s sexual climate, the University can begin to make positive steps towards promoting a safe and supportive campus for survivors and students,” Leonard said. “Though there is still a great amount of work to be done on Yale’s campus, building a bridge between the University and students is encouraging.”
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org