Three female undergraduate students at Yale University have filed a class-action lawsuit against the university and nine of its all-male fraternal organizations in hopes of requiring fraternities to admit women as members to change the culture of sexual harassment.
Anna McNeil, Ry Walker and Eliana Singer believe that integrating female members will force the organizations to be held accountable for alleged sexual assault, harassment and discrimination.
The lawsuit calls for an order that essentially bans fraternities from making admission decisions based on gender. McNeil, Singer and Walker also pointed out that women are being shut out of the social and economic benefits offered by all-male fraternities, including access to vast alumni networks that can help land coveted jobs. Although they do realize that sororities exist, their power and influence pales in comparison with fraternities, the lawsuit said.
Along with Yale, the nine organizations included in the lawsuit are: Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Delta Phi, Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon/Leo, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Zeta Psi.
Examples of influential members of these fraternities are: Former President George W. Bush and Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — both alumni of Delta Kappa Epsilon.
“Yale promises female students an educational environment free of gender discrimination, but the reality of campus life does not deliver on that promise,” one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, David Sanford, said in a statement.
“Women on campus must navigate a hostile, all-male fraternity scene that plays a significant role in campus social life. Male members of the fraternities control and create dangerous party environments in which sexual misconduct thrives.”
“Although Yale has known about these conditions for more than a decade, the university has failed to protect its students. Faced with Yale’s deliberate indifference and the continuing dangers, students now turn to federal court to make their campus safe.”
Existing Policies on Harassment and Discrimination
Yale does have existing policies regarding harassment and discrimination, though. According to the school’s website, there’s a list of protocols. Listed below are some actions that could be taken.
“In either case, complaints or concerns about equal opportunity, sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, status as a protected veteran, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, racial harassment, or any other act of discrimination may be brought to the deans’ designees, the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs or to other identified members of the Yale community who can assist in identifying options and helping facilitate resolution. Complaints or concerns relating to racial or ethnic harassment may also be brought through the President’s Procedure for Addressing Students’ Complaints of Racial or Ethnic Harassment.
Complaints or concerns about disability-related issues should be brought to the University’s Section 504 Coordinator, Valarie Stanley, 203-432-0849. Other options and formal complaint procedures are identified on this website under File a Formal Complaint. Complaints that may involve violations of criminal law may be brought to the attention of the Yale or New Haven Police. Complaints may also be reported to the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.
Complaints about sexual misconduct should be reported to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education (SHARE) Center or to a Title IX Coordinator (who also can advise on sex discrimination), regardless of whether your complaint is about students, faculty, staff, or a third party (i.e. individuals who are not students or employees of the university, such as guests and consultants).”
In theory, the class action lawsuit sounds justified, but in reality, there’s a bigger problem that should be addressed. This case will not set a precedent as coed fraternities already exist.
In the United States, there are 13 coed fraternities. The issue isn’t about not allowing female members into these organizations or female sororities members not having influence or power. For example, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential candidate, is a member of the illustrious Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. — the first female Black-American Greek lettered organization in this country.
Becoming a part of an all-male fraternity doesn’t necessarily guarantee there won’t be sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or discrimination. There needs to be severe repercussions handed out to organizations that don’t act in accordance with the code of conduct issued by the university.
Yale has a task force for Greek life on campus. Problematic organizations have been allowed to return to Yale. That is the problem. Alumni dollars aside, Yale has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its students.
These organizations have always been given passes, and it’s up to all places of higher education to finally hold them accountable when they break the rules.
That is how culture change begins.