DKE case raises questions about fraternity bans2 Comments
Around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 13, 2010, Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges filed into Old Campus, chanting the now-infamous lines: “No means yes, yes means anal.”
Footage of the incident quickly went viral, drawing condemnation from the Yale community and beyond. After a six-month investigation, the Yale College Executive Committee imposed a five-year ban on DKE in May 2011. The penalties prevented the group from associating itself with Yale, holding on-campus events and using Yale email or bulletin boards to communicate with students.
But despite the high-profile punishment, the actual execution of the ban and its lifting this May went largely unnoticed, raising questions about the efficacy of disciplinary action on Greek organizations.
“We wrestle with it,” Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway said in reference to the efficacy of bans on campus groups. “We can only do so much to stop behavior.”
Burgwell Howard, senior associate dean of Yale College, said it is a challenge to address the relationship between Greek organizations and the University because Yale cannot mandate training or implement certain kinds of incentives.
Still, Holloway pointed that “the Yale name means something,” adding that for example, removing a student group’s access to the yale.edu internet domain sends an important symbolic message.
“We’re saying that you cannot involve the University in this behavior that we find repugnant. That’s called signaling, and if we didn’t do that, we’d have failed the community,” Holloway said.
Still, Luke Persichetti ’17, current president of DKE, said in a statement to the News that the ban has effected change within the fraternity.
“I believe the sanctions had a positive impact on the culture of our fraternity,” Persichetti said. “Our current members understand the history of the ban and have played an important part in the cultural shift that has taken place since then.”
Jordan Forney ’11, president of Yale’s DKE chapter during the chanting incident, declined to comment for this article.
Considering the balance between DKE’s role as a member of an international organization and its identity within the Yale community, Persichetti explained that while the national chapter controls risk management, recruitment and general governance, the local DKE chapter treasures its role on campus and welcomes “any and all constructive input” from the University.
Skyler Inman ’17, founding president of the Alpha Phi sorority and director of the Yale College Council’s Greek life task force last year, acknowledged the struggle for the University to regulate Greek organizations not affiliated with the school.
“A campuswide ban still can’t affect these groups’ ability to host off-campus parties in their own homes, which is the main social capital that groups like this have,” Inman said. “I think the fact that many students are or were unaware of these bans speaks to their inefficacy, but that doesn’t mean that the bans don’t hurt the groups’ recruitment or presence on campus.”
For Leo, a fraternity at Yale formerly associated with Sigma Alpha Epsilon, an on-campus ban had little impact on regular activities. In February 2015, Leo was banned from campus for 18 months after the University ruled that the fraternity violated sexual misconduct policies.
In a previous interview with the News, Jesse Mander ’18, president of Leo, noted that Leo — like all fraternities at Yale — is located off campus, and as a result the ban “didn’t affect [it] that much.” He added, however, that Leo looks forward to using its revamped presence on campus to enhance and redefine the role of fraternities at Yale.
Holloway said although the five-year ban for DKE sounds harsh, given that no current members were enrolled at Yale during the 2010 chanting incident, punishments sometimes need to target beyond the perpetrators in order to “flush institutional memory and culture out.” Inman said such events tend to stem more from group culture than individual action.
According to Inman, there has been a broad cultural shift in the Greek community, trending toward transparency, accountability and inclusivity. For example, several fraternities have made an effort to engage more with campus resources such as the Communication and Consent Educators, United Against Sexual Assault at Yale and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm-Reduction Initiative. Howard said he initiated a conversation with Greek organizations about collectively joining the University last year and that he will continue to bring up the same question this year.
But other students interviewed said the ban on DKE may not address the root of the problem.
Patrick Sullivan ’18, a communication and consent educator, said the fact that fraternities are beholden to their national chapters — bodies that are independent of the University — puts the school in a difficult position to make policies against these groups. Still, Sullivan said there needs to be structural changes in order for the University to intervene in the groups’ treatment of race, gender, sexual violence and other important issues.
“I think that banning fraternities from activities or banning them as a Yale organization is an important punitive measure the University can take, because what DKE did was unacceptable,” said Sullivan. “I don’t think, however, that banning an organization from on-campus activities does the work of enacting a change in the organization.”
Sullivan said many universities struggle to deal with institutional memory because of student turnover, adding that they are guilty of ignoring the heart of campus problems and instead waiting for the disgruntled students to graduate.
“Yes, a lot of the brothers of DKE were in middle school when this particular event happened, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still toxic things that exist in fraternities right now that the University needs to engage with,” he added.
Still, several students interviewed were largely unaware of the DKE ban, speaking to its minimal impact on regular campus life.
Of 17 students interviewed by the News, 10 said they are aware of the chanting incident in 2010 and eight said they know a ban was imposed on DKE as a result. However, none of the interviewees said they knew the ban had been lifted.
Few, if any, current undergraduates were students at Yale when DKE’s ban was announced. And some students interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of a public notification about the expiration of the ban.
“To achieve a mutual understanding, I think it’s important that the administration, given the events of the last year, has some kind of accountability in terms of transparency,” said Geneva Decker ’17. “As a senior, I didn’t even know there was a ban, and I think it’d be very relevant to a lot of students to hear this news from the University.”
Regardless of the ban’s status, Persichetti said DKE’s diverse makeup — varsity athletes, student government representatives and communication consent educators — contributes to the Yale community “in a positive and meaningful way.”
DKE National Executive Director Doug Lanpher told the News that DKE’s chapter at Yale has continued to flourish even after the ban, adding that DKE is proud of the “rich heritage and an outstanding group of young men” that makes up the Yale chapter.
DKE was founded at Yale in 1844.