Controversy quickly ensued. By 11:55 pm, Sally Walstrom, MC ’12, public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, sent a mass email informing board members and affiliates of the Women’s Center that DKE pledges had been chanting “violent and misogynistic slogans around campus.”
The Women’s Center seemed to have resolved some of its problems with DKE last year. Last semester, the two groups collaborated to throw a party, “DKE and the Yale Women’s Center Present Modern Love at DKE.” While DKE may not have been an obvious venue for Modern Love—a weekly Friday dance party that ran from Fall 2008 through Spring 2010—the DKE brothers seemed to get on quite well with the other guests. “The party was a lot of fun and there was a lot of goodwill,” said Greg Rubin, TC ’11, a former Modern Love organizer. “Everybody was on their best and friendliest behavior; nobody felt threatened.”
Thursday night’s march prompted differing opinions within the Greek community. “The way I feel about this is that DKE does this every year,” said Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) brother Jeff Cripe, DC ’12, and Opinion editor of the Yale Herald. “I don’t understand why people keep getting riled up about it every time.” Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep) brother Jin Lee, TC ’12, disagreed. “What DKE did was terrible. It was misogynistic and it gives frats on campus a bad name.”
DKE is not the first Yale fraternity to have clashed with the Women’s Center. In the fall of 2008, a picture surfaced of a group of Zeta Psi pledges posing in front of the Yale Women’s Center with a handwritten sign reading ‘We Love Yale Sluts.’ The Women’s Center responded with outrage, but Zeta only received a censure from the Yale administration.
While Zeta seemed content to weather the storm and wait out the furor surrounding the ‘We Love Yale Sluts’ episode, DKE is taking a far more proactive approach and is reaching out to its critics. In a statement sent to the Herald entitled “Apology on behalf of DKE,” DKE brother Sam Teicher, SM ’12, and president Jordan Forney, SM ’11, expressed regret over the incident on behalf of the fraternity. “Too often college students get carried away in revelry or tradition and ignore the significance of their words and actions,” the email reads. “The brothers of DKE accept responsibility for what we did, and want to sincerely apologize to the Yale community. We were wrong. We were disrespectful, vulgar and inappropriate. More than that, we were insensitive of all women who have been victims of rape or sexual violence, especially those here at Yale.”
Many people on campus are still very upset about the event. Kathryn Olivarius, BR ’11, former member of the Women’s Center Board and former co-President of the Sphincter Troupe, said, “It’s shameful that DKE claims that the Women’s Center and everyone are over-reacting. The bottom line is that it’s a really inappropriate thing to be doing.” Olivarius remains adamant that this event should be offensive to everyone. “It’s not something that just the Women’s Center should be upset about. It’s something that everyone should upset everyone,” Olivarius said.
Similarly, Adriel Saporta, TC ’11, editor-in-chief of Broad Recognition a feminist magazine at Yale, said, “I think it’s sad that we’re still dealing with this sort of thing. I hope that this time, something will be done. I hope that the administration will respond in some concrete way and not just invite everyone to have a conversation.”
What some people find most upsetting is the public nature of this behavior. That is, the DKE brothers did not conduct this hazing in their house. Instead, they led the pledges on Old Campus and instructed them to repeat this chant for other people to here. Anya van Wagtendonk, TD ’12, said, “Everyone says offensive things. If they want to joke about rape in their own home, that’s fine. Even if this had happened at a DKE party, people would have had the opportunity to leave or speak up. But it becomes a violation the minute they arrive in front of people’s residence halls and force their offensive, hateful slogans on the hundreds of students doing nothing other than living in the near vicinity.” Van Wagtendonk continued, “Those students don’t have an opportunity to speak out or to leave — they’re supposed to be safe at home. There should be an understanding on this campus that we will uphold standards of common decency in public spaces.”
On the other hand, Inderpal Grewal, the chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, felt that this sort of hazing—whether done in a fraternity house or publicly on campus—“demonstrates the way in which certain fraternities incorporate new members into their group by doing things that are hateful, awful, and abusive. It is a way of becoming part of an identity and creating an identity based on a bond of doing hateful things.” This specific incident, according to Grewal, “is a way of saying, ‘I’m not gay. I’m not a woman. I’m not Muslim.’ It’s voicing a negative identity.” As appalling as these chants were, “the idea behind it is not an original one,” said Grewal.
Sally Walstrom and the Women’s Center, offered a brief statement on Thursday evening. For Walstrom, “This incident demonstrates the urgent need to reform Yale’s sexual culture. Though not without precedent, the chants disrespect our community and should not be tolerated. It is crucial for the entire Yale community to come together to ensure that these kinds of actions don’t happen again. We can and must make Yale a safe and respectful place for all students.”
Both DKE and the Women’s Center encourage everyone to attend the Forum on Sexual Climate Friday at 1 pm in LC 102. Forney and Teicher hope “that [Wednesday’s] unfortunate events serve as a teachable moment to facilitate…positive and meaningful dialogue about sexual relations at Yale.” “This event—and the dialogue it will generate—is our response,” says Walstrom. “The Forum is a part of many student organization’s ongoing efforts to transform problematic and destructive elements of Yale sexual culture.”