NEW YORK – In October 2010, the current brothers of George W. Bush’s former fraternity at Yale, Delta Kappa Epsilon, marched through the first-year quad chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” They held up signs reading, “We love Yale Sluts.”
Sixteen graduate and undergraduate students, male and female, felt that the university’s administration then did little to push back against such encroachments on female students’ rights to a fair and non-threatening learning environment. In March, they filed a federal lawsuit against Yale, alleging that its “failure to address incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault has created a ‘hostile environment.’”
The lawsuit did not stop with the DKE incident. First-year women were ranked on their sex appeal, the complaint noted, and, most seriously, Yale failed to respond adequately to reports of sexual assault or attempted assault and stalking. According to Alexandra Brodsky, a Yale junior and one of the 16 complainants, the students are “really frustrated and disappointed that Yale again and again fails to respond to both public and private acts of sexual harassment and assaults, which…perpetuates an environment in which these…acts are okay.”
The students’ complaint coincides with a federal investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which announced that it would review Yale’s policies for dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault. This is no small matter: Yale and other American universities receive millions of federal dollars annually – money that would be jeopardized if the university was found to tolerate an unequal learning environment.