Editors’ note: It is the policy of the News not to publish anonymous columns, but in this case, an exception has been made. The name of the writer has been kept confidential based on their concern for retaliation should they be identified. The editors know the identity of the writer and have confirmed their story to the greatest extent possible in person and through independent reporting.
Imagine waking up for your last week of classes at Yale to find that an administrator defended your assailant in the school newspaper. Unimaginable? It happened to me this Monday. I opened my phone to see that Dean Burgwell Howard, Yale’s associate vice president of student life, was described by the News as saying he sympathized with the fraternity brother who sexually assaulted me.
Dean Howard’s apparent sympathy for assailants is appalling and should, at minimum, raise eyebrows across our University. Many survivors on campus are frustrated and frightened by our University’s response to sexual misconduct. Dean Howard’s perspective — tinged by nostalgia for college fraternity days and tainted by a seeming unwillingness to believe women — is not uncommon among administrators.
For example, Dean Howard likened recent sexual misconduct accusations against members of DKE to a situation he personally encountered in college: One of his fraternity brothers in Dartmouth’s Beta Theta Pi had broken a window after a drunken night of revelry. As a result, the entire fraternity was punished — in Howard’s view, unfairly.
Women are not windows. And DKE is facing not one allegation of sexual misconduct. It’s facing 10 and counting.
Dean Howard’s comments are distressing, but the issue extends far beyond his words. Ten women currently enrolled in the University have made allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the fraternity. None of this is new or unique, and we all know this. DKE has made headlines before, most notably in 2010 when the fraternity’s pledges marched outside the Yale Women’s Center chanting: “No means yes, yes means anal” and “I f— dead women and fill them with my semen.”
In the past year alone, no fewer than 30 Communication and Consent Educators, first-year counselors and sorority members have told the News that sexual misconduct at DKE goes far beyond a few “bad apples.” Instead, the repeated incidences of sexual assault at DKE specifically reflect a systemic institutional problem. Yet Howard and other administrators continue to delegitimize the need for an investigation of the fraternity. Dean Howard has evidently cultivated a reputation as “one of the boys,” with DKE explicitly referring to him as an “ally” in its internal report.
This administrative apathy actively endangers women. It’s not a question of whether or not women are unsafe at DKE. We are and frighteningly so. Instead, the question is why University administrators and fellow students refuse to acknowledge the reality of DKE’s behavior.
This semester alone, I have woken up to countless articles, tweets and Facebook posts about my assault. I have had to listen to people speak about me in the third person, discussing my most intimate violation in seminar and over coffee. I’ve felt sad, scared and neglected by my university and my fellow students, both of which have remained largely complacent even after nine other women came forward about DKE.
DKE has made little progress on improving its sexual climate. Nearly every measure taken by the fraternity has been reactive rather than proactive. Its lack of progress manifested itself in a shocking lack of transparency when the fraternity refused to publicize the results of its internal review — for which the authors miraculously failed to interview a single woman, let alone a survivor. This omission is an egregious oversight. It’s so tone deaf that it’s clear DKE does not care at all.
As of Thursday evening, almost 200 students have responded as “Going” on the private Facebook event for DKE’s annual post–Spring Fling party, “Tang.” Yale students who attend DKE’s parties make their politics explicit: They care more about kegs of cheap beer and hookups than they do about denouncing assailants and supporting survivors. That is unacceptable.
To the Yale administration: Stop responding with bans and half-measures — they do nothing. You have not been an “ally of all students.” DKE poses a clear threat to women on Yale’s campus. If one more complaint is filed, then the chapter should be shut down.
To Yale activists: You have been hauntingly silent on this issue. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to do something.
And to all Yale students: If you’re walking down Lake Place this Sunday for Tang — or any DKE party in the future — think about what you are doing. If you attend Tang, you are complicit in a toxic sexual climate — end of story. So don’t go. And don’t make excuses for those who do either. People should come before partying.