Lucas Holter, Senior Photographer

Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual violence.

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After years of campus criticism regarding cultures conducive to sexual misconduct and concerns about inclusivity broadly, Greek life at Yale has seen changing policies and increased interest in all-gender social groups over the last four years. 

Fraternities disaffiliate from national organizations

In 2018, Yale’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon became LEO; in 2020, Sigma Phi Epsilon became the Edon Club.

“We are pleased to have finally completed the disaffiliation process,” a LEO representative said in a statement to the News in 2018. “This is an important milestone in our ongoing effort to provide a safe and fun social space for members of the Yale community. We reaffirm our commitment to our core values, which include mutual respect, appreciation of our community, and accountability.”

But earlier that year, in February, Holloway had already banned the fraternity from campus after

LEO’s disaffiliation came three years after they announced their plan to do so. In fall 2015, the chapter made national headlines for allegedly holding a “white girls only” Halloween party; in December of the same year, then-Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced that a University investigation into the incident found “no evidence of systematic discrimination against people of color” in the fraternity. 

That February, however, Holloway had banned the fraternity from campus after finding that the chapter violated Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct. The national SAE organization also provoked outrage in early 2015 when a video of the organization’s University of Oklahoma chapter chanting “There will never be a n—– in SAE” went viral. After a year of intense campus debate about racial inclusion on campus, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter announced its intent to disaffiliate in May 2015. 

Then-LEO president Grant Mueller ’17 told the News the chapter disaffiliated because it wanted to become financially independent of its national parent organization. 

Sigma Phi Epsilon similarly disaffiliated in 2020, becoming the all-gender Edon Club. The Fence Club — formerly a campus chapter of Phi Upsilon — began to include of women in 2009, marking Edon the second fraternity to transition into a mixed-gender social space.

Along with the University and eight other fraternities at Yale, SigEp was a defendant in a 2019 lawsuit launched by Anna McNeil ’20, Ry Walker ’20 and Ellie Singer ’21 on Title IX claims of gender discrimination. McNeil, Walker and Singer are three co-founders of Engender, a student coalition launched in 2016 in 2016 with the goal of increasing equity and inclusivity in Yale social spaces. The lawsuit was dismissed on all but one count by the District Court of Connecticut this past January. 

Singer and Walker wrote to the News at the time that they were “not surprised” that SigEp chose that particular moment to disaffiliated and “wish[ed] them well on their efforts.”

“We hope others follow suit instead of continuing with a broken status quo,” they wrote. “The time for gender equity has long since arrived.”

The first class of women rushed Edon in the spring of 2021, with a cohort of 18 non-men in the club’s first semester. While non-male members of Edon said that the Club was working to create a more inclusive space, some students said that they did not feel more comfortable at Edon than at other all-male fraternities.

“I think the female membership has made a huge difference in Edon’s culture,” former social co-chair Lucy Harvey ’24 said. “I don’t think we’re done. Just becoming all-gender — I don’t think that’s enough, necessarily.”

Before Edon became all-gender, Fence Club’s spring 2020 recruitment process highlighted the demand for all-gender social spaces on campus. Around 150 students signed up for its rush process to fill only 20 spots.

Sexual misconduct in Greek life

Sexual misconduct within Yale’s fraternities has long stirred campus discourse, with the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity often at the center of the conversation. In 2011, the fraternity was formally banned from campus for five years for chanting “No means yes, yes means anal” on Old Campus. 

In February 2018, the University announced that it would open an investigation into DKE after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and “disruptive behavior,” which caused the group to lose its house on Lake Place. Then-Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced the results of the investigation in January 2019. Chun did not formally censure DKE, but he advised students not to attend their events.

“I condemn the culture described in these accounts; it runs counter to our community’s values of making everyone feel welcome, respected and safe,” Chun wrote in his email to students sharing the review’s findings. “I also offer some plain advice about events like these: don’t go to them.”

DKE publicly returned to campus life last April for the first time since losing its house. Under the leadership of Ryan McCann ’24, DKE hosted its annual drinking competition, Tang.

Sororities have canceled mixers with several fraternities over concerns about sexual misconduct. In 2021, after two sororities canceled mixers with Sigma Nu, the fraternity announced that it would hold elections to replace all leadership members, institute an honor board for sexual misconduct and set up safety policies for social events.

Similarly, in December 2022, sororities canceled mixers with LEO after a rape allegation emerged against its vice president. The fraternity removed the vice president and implemented new bylaws meant to increase safety, but many female students still questioned the safety of the fraternity.

In 2019, McNeil, Walker and Singer sued Yale and nine of Yale’s fraternities for gender discrimination and a hostile sexual environment. The federal class action complaint asked for male-only groups to gender integrate.

“Obviously, a lawsuit was not our first option, nor was it our ideal option,” said Anna McNeil ’20, one of the students who filed the lawsuit. “We’ve had to come forward with our personal stories of sexual misconduct, which isn’t ideal, but it’s our last resort given that we’ve tried to appeal to our peers and we’ve tried to appeal to our administrators and our Yale administration failed us and continues to be self-interested rather than concerned on behalf of the students that frat culture puts at risk.” 

All but one count of Engender’s lawsuit — McNeil’s Title IX complaint related to a 2016 sexual assault allegations — were dismissed in February 2020.

Inclusivity in sororities

While fraternities grapple with sexual misconduct and inclusivity, sororities and all-gender groups have seen increased interest. In the 2021-2022 school year, after a year of off-campus and virtual education, Yale’s Panhellenic Council saw its largest cohort of potential new members sign up for sorority rush.

The four Panhellenic sororities, Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, decided to hold rush virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rushees described an array of challenges and advantages to the virtual rush process.

“One unexpected benefit was that I think an online rush improved accessibility to recruitment,” Isabella Hay ’24 wrote to the News at the time. “We were able to accommodate many more conflicts because PNMs [potential new members] were able to just log onto their computers instead of trekking to some random campus building. It also kept PNMs from having to walk from party to party in the New Haven winter, which is always a plus!”

Sororities have also pushed for more inclusivity within their organizations, holding a “Diversity in Sororities” panel in 2018 to discuss exclusion and diversity in their chapters, specifically in the recruitment process. However, Holly Geffs ’18, a former president of Pi Phi, said that this discussion is often “futile and surface level, even if well-intentioned” as long as sororities do not offer full financial aid. She added that some sororities view diversity as a way to gain “social capital.”

Greek chapters are not formally recognized by Yale as official student organizations.