OP-ED: Yale Falling Short After Fraternity Incident
On the evening of October 13, a group of pledges from the Yale chapter of the DKE paraded through the Old Campus, home to many freshman women, chanting “No means Yes, Yes means anal!”, “F*cking sluts” and, perhaps inspired by their WWE viewing, “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f*ck dead women, and fill them with my semen.” The chants were caught on YouTube and there has, quite rightfully, been nationwide outrage.
DKE International has ordered the Yale Chapter of the fraternity to suspend all new member activities until further notice. Yale held a workshop with members of the fraternity and the Yale Women’s Center.
But Yale needs to go further. According not only have the perpetrators abrogated the University’s own Code of Conduct they’ve proved they don’t have the social intelligence or the moral fiber one would expect of those who matriculated at one of our nation’s premier institutions of higher learning.
For too long our society has tolerated, and thus tacitly condoned, a culture of misogyny, writing off such incidents with excuses like “they were drunk” or “boys will be boys.” We cannot afford to allow such incidents to be glossed over with a “mea culpa” and a slap on the wrist, which is, unfortunately, all too common. That Dean Mary Miller chose to reference “free speech” in her letter to the Yale student body, shows an appalling lack of judgment when Department of Justice statistics show that one in four women will either be raped or experience attempted rape during their four years at college. If it’s against the law to shout fire in a crowded movie theater, and these actions fit Yale’s own definition of sexual misconduct why is the Administration engaging in such mealy-mouthed ass covering? Are the kids’ families such big donors?
Daisy Whitney, a well-known new media journalist and author of the young adult novel The Mockingbirds, was herself a victim of date rape her freshman year of college.
“This is chilling and shocking and has the potential to undermine years of progress women and men have made in communicating the vital message that no means no and the ONLY thing that means yes is a yes,” Whitney said. “This incident is also further proof that we are NOT yet an enlightened society about sexual violence and that awareness, education and outrage over sexual violence absolutely must continue.”
These kids are supposedly the cream of our country’s intellectual crop. At least five former presidents, our current Attorney General and one of our CT senators are Yalies. Two former presidents (HW and W Bush) were members of the very fraternity that perpetrated this outrage. When you consider that 4 out of 10 women being treated at veterans hospitals have reported being raped by fellow soldiers while they were in the military (the actual number is believed higher), and our Presidents as their commanders in chief, have allowed these rapes to be brushed under the carpet, even permitting the perpetrators full military burials, it’s clear that we simply cannot afford to have future leaders being educated in such a misogynistic atmosphere.
I’m always wary of immediate “blame the parents” reactions, but when I read the so called “apology” from the fraternity, I can’t help but wonder if in putting such emphasis on making sure their kids got the top scores and grades so they could get into the “best” schools and presumably graduate with the most lucrative jobs, the parents of these guys neglected to teach them the most important things in life. Fundamental lessons like “What is hateful to you, do not do to unto your neighbor.”
All of these young people have mothers and presumably a reasonable percentage of them grew up in a household with sisters. Did the thought not, at any point in these sordid proceedings, cross at least one of those 700-800 average SAT score brains: How would the women in my family feel if they were on the receiving end of this? Did not one of these potential future leaders stop to think of how his mother feels every time she has to walk down an empty street and hears a noise behind her, or what his sister has to think about when she parks her car in a public garage at night? Did they not think about how it would feel for their mothers to hear those words from an unknown assailant or their sisters from a date rapist?
If not, then what does it say about their psychological makeup? And if so, then surely one, just one, could have had the courage, the moral fortitude, let’s face it, the balls, to stand up and say, “Guys, this is Just Plain Wrong.”
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a real man among them. They deserve to be suspended at the very least.
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.