Trigger Warning: This article contains mention of sexual violence.
Last week, the News reported that Delta Kappa Epsilon is returning to Yale. But why is Yale giving the fraternity that seems to have more complaints for sexual misconduct than any other campus organization yet another chance? As it has before, DKE is taking advantage of the short-term institutional memory that is inherent to four-year universities to return to campus life. It has never changed its ways before; what makes anyone think it will now?
I personally know the pain caused by Yale’s refusal to shut DKE down. During my junior year, the president of DKE raped me just months after publicly praising his organization for becoming a safer place for women and learning from its sordid past. After a long and difficult investigation, Yale suspended him for “penetration without consent” until after I graduated. My senior year, after 10 women came forward in spring 2018 with sexual misconduct allegations against members of the fraternity, I penned an anonymous op-ed in this very newspaper, begging Yale to finally take action and shut DKE down.
Today, four years later, I can tell my story under my own name. I no longer fear retaliation from Yale. As an involved alumna who cares deeply about the institution and its students, I simply cannot stand by and watch history repeat itself. No one should go through what I went through.
In fall 2016, at the fraternity’s annual Christmas party, DKEmas, the former president cornered me and ignored me when I repeatedly said “no” to his advances. The next morning, I did what I was “supposed” to do. I went to the hospital. I got a rape kit. I immediately reported the assault to Yale and the New Haven police.
Then, I waited. The man who had raped me lived blocks from my home, ate in the same dining halls and studied in the same libraries. After a year the New Haven Police Department admitted they lost my file and that my case had been “a mistake from an investigative point of view.”
It was only thanks to Obama-era Title IX guidelines, which — crucially — are no longer in place, that I was able to seek justice through the University. After a few grueling months, the committee ruled in my favor, and I was able to graduate on time with honors, spared from the fear and trauma of sharing a campus with the man who raped me.
Today’s students do not have this level of protection from the federal government after the Trump administration gutted Title IX. Now, universities can ignore any sexual misconduct that occurs off campus, outside of officially recognized university programs and activities. Despite existing steps from campus and being exclusively inhabited by Yale students, Yale’s fraternity houses fall into this category, an open secret that means regulation can be bypassed with a wink and a nod. Unlike Yale’s previous sexual misconduct policy, which did not limit protection by location, Yale’s new policy makes it clear that it applies only to sexual misconduct in “Yale-related” off-campus activities. Under this new regime, I would have had no recourse because I was raped in the wrong place.
It is notable that the new Trump Title IX regulations force schools and universities to handle sexual assaults differently from any other crime. With hate crimes and robberies, for example, schools discipline students regardless of where the crime occurred. The reasoning? Those crimes endanger the greater community. Why should sexual assault be any different?
DKE withdrew from campus life in 2018 under one set of federal guidelines, and it is now returning to an entirely different reality. The erosion of these important Title IX protections makes DKE’s official return to Yale all the more horrifying, and the need for Yale to take action all the more urgent.
Let me pause, and share a short history of DKE’s recent issues.
In 2010, the fraternity’s pledges got nationwide press after marching outside the Yale Women’s Center chanting “No means yes, yes means anal!” and “I f— dead women and fill them with my semen!”
Shortly after, 16 students and alumni filed a civil rights complaint against DKE with the Department of Education. The Yale College Executive Committee then convened for months before finally banning DKE from campus for five years. This toothless ban had little effect: During its period of formal sanctioning, DKE regularly hosted events and continued to recruit members. Shockingly, its membership numbers actually increased.
And, as it often does, DKE made a big show of celebrating a culture change. In 2016, immediately after the ban was lifted, the then-president of the fraternity told the News that it had a “positive impact” on DKE’s culture. I have reason to dispute that: just two months later, he raped me.
Unfortunately, my experience was not unique. After a 2018 Business Insider article about two DKE assaults — against me and another Yale student — eight other women forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the fraternity.
DKE again sought to present itself as nonthreatening. In response, the fraternity conducted an internal investigation that ultimately found “no evidence of a culture of sexual hostility or sexual harassment.” Remarkably, DKE did not find it important to interview a woman, let alone a survivor of sexual assault, in coming to this conclusion.
The public relations nightmare that ensued forced Yale to formally review DKE’s behavior, which it took 11 months to do. The University’s ultimate report condemned DKE’s culture — described by students as a “meat market” for women – and encouraged students not to attend the fraternity’s events. Despite this, Yale still refused to sanction the organization, citing the impossibility of regulating off-campus organizations. That’s a bogus charge: Peer institutions like Princeton have managed to do so with relative ease.
After the 2018 allegations, DKE’s landlord had had enough — the group lost its lease that fall, handicapping its ability to host large student parties.
Since 2018 the group’s public presence has been diminished, at least until now.
Yale once again finds itself at a turning point with DKE. On Sunday, DKE plans to kick off its return to campus with a “Bacchanalian” event.
Stomping out dangerous organizations is not the responsibility of individual Yale students – that duty falls on the Yale administration, which has repeatedly neglected the safety of its students by ignoring DKE’s obvious problems. DKE has never reformed itself, despite a near constant ebb and flow of bans and binge drinking, sanctions and sexual assaults. Time and time again, it has proven its failure to learn anything of value from its past.
So, I’m writing to say enough: Too many women have been collateral damage of DKE’s indisputable institutional rot and Yale’s inaction: Shut DKE down now.
Mollie Johnson ‘18 is the Practice Manager of McAllister Olivarius, a transatlantic law firm that specializes in fighting sex discrimination in educational institutions and employment settings. Contact her at email@example.com.