Female students sue Yale University fraternities attended by Brett Kavanaugh and George Bush

Students claim 'toxic' culture fosters sexual harassment

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Tuesday 12 February 2019 22:46
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Female students sue Yale University over 'toxic' fraternity culture that fosters sexual harassment

Three women students have sued Yale University and nine all-male fraternities, which they claim foster a culture of sexual harassment.

In a class action lawsuit filed in a federal court in Connecticut, the women demanded the university, founded in 1701, ban student groups that seek to refuse women members. It also called for women to be greater involved in the management of such groups.

“Yale is a microcosm of the ongoing epidemic of sexual harassment and assault at all-male fraternities,” says the lawsuit.

“For decades, social science research has warned that fraternities perpetuate and normalise forms of gender discrimination and sexual violence. Studies have found that fraternity brothers commit sexual assault at three times the rate of other male college students.”

Fraternities and sororities play a huge role in the student life of many Americans who attend higher education, providing an instant network of friends, and a vast network of contacts to make use of after graduation. The most “prestigious” student groups can be very discriminating in who they admit.

The three women - Anna McNeil, Eliana Singer, Ry Walker - said that sororities did not have the same social cachet, or professional benefits, as fraternities.

“It’s not only breeding a very toxic sexual culture but also is giving undue economic and professional benefits to the male fraternity members,” Ms Walker, 20, who is studying astrophysics and African-American studies, told the Associated Press.

The lawsuit says: “The fraternities offer Yale men social and economic opportunities that are denied to the plaintiffs and all of Yale’s female and non-binary students. In addition to controlling many of Yale’s social gatherings, fraternity brothers have access to a vast, nationwide alumni network, which often results in coveted job opportunities.”

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It adds: “Indeed, Yale’s fraternity alumni include powerful business and political leaders, such as former presidents George HW Bush and George W Bush, and current Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh - all alumni of Yale’s chapter of defendant Delta Kappa Epsilon.”

A Yale spokesman, Tom Conroy, said he had no comment on the lawsuit. However, he referred media to a message shared last month by Yale College Dean Marvin Chun who described a review of allegations of a sexually hostile climate at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and efforts to bring about more social opportunities for students.

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

A lawyer for the nine fraternities, Joan Gilbride, told the New York Times the three students’ accusations were baseless.

To help prevent sexual misconduct, the lawsuit asks a judge to order that co-ed “sober monitors” be appointed for each off-campus event.

The defendants include the local and national chapters of fraternities including Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Leo fraternity, Sigma Chi Theta Upsilon, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Zeta Psi.

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