May 17, 2011
On the afternoon of May 17, 2011, Dean Mary Miller of Yale College released an email to the faculty and students of Yale detailing the disciplinary charges against the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity to be enacted following the pledge events held by DKE on October 13th of 2010. These activities included the chanting of phrases such as “No means yes, yes means anal.”
Dean Miller’s announcement comes on the heels of the Title IX investigation into Yale’s response to sexual assault and harassment launched by the Office of Civil Rights. While Dean Miller notes that typically Yale would not release the results of Executive Committee decisions (a long standing Yale policy), in this case the information has been disseminated due to the wide-reaching effects of DKE’s actions.
Dean Miller provides some much needed insight into the workings of ExComm. In this case, a specific complaint of “sexual harassment” and “imperiling the integrity and values of the University community” was brought to the committee by Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry. Those being charged as complicit in the incident, as well as witnesses, were interviewed by the committee Fact Finder, whereupon a report was drafted and submitted to the committee. A full hearing was held and the Yale DKE chapter was found to be “in violation of the Undergraduate Regulations of Yale College”–specifically the statutes relating to harassment and integrity of the community. Additionally, an unreleased number of fraternity members as individual entities were found to have violated the Undergraduate Regulations.
While the individual members were penalized, specifics regarding the individuals involved and the punishments issued were not included in Dean Miller’s email due to Yale’s privacy policies as well as federal privacy law, such as FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. However, the ExComm has released that DKE will be punished by the forced suspension of fraternity activities on campus (including recruiting) for five years; the loss of privileges to communicate with Yale students via bulletin boards or Yale email; and “severe” limitation of the use of “the Yale name” in association with DKE. It is unclear exactly how these restrictions will affect DKE, which is not registered with the university or dependent on it for housing or funding, but ExComm has issued a formal request to the national DKE organization to suspend the chapter for five years. After a five year period, the ExComm committee will reconsider the imposition of these sanctions contingent on cooperation by DKE.
While the enactment of these restrictions signals a potential change in Yale’s punitive actions against sexual harassment, it also heralds a possible departure in terms of confidentiality procedure. Although Yale has not issued individual and identifying information on those involved, in accordance with federal law, this is the first time in recent memory that the specific judicial results of an ExComm trial against an organization have been released to the student body at large. Perhaps Yale will follow in the footsteps of other liberal arts colleges like Dickinson, which, after student protests in early March, redesigned its sexual assault policy to include the release of the results of disciplinary actions for sexual harassment and assault cases. This trend towards openness, which does not require the release of identifying information, seems to be a step in the right direction toward establishing a safe and transparent campus that is committed to supporting education for all its students, regardless of sex. The publication of trial results, without the incorporation of specific details of the proverbial defendants and prosecutors, might in fact galvanize students to report sexual crimes and compel the administration to appropriately respond to sexual crimes, rather than simply deal with them in hushed tones behind closed doors, thereby perhaps curbing sexual assault altogether.
Although it’s uncertain how the actions of ExComm will practically affect DKE as an organization, it seems that this strong condemnation of sexual harassment might presage a new era for Yale’s treatment of such misconduct: an era in which perpetrators are brought to justice, victims receive swift attention, and the student body is kept abreast of issues of safety on campus.
Demetra Hufnagel is a sophomore in Yale College. She is an Associate Editor for Broad Recognition.