Yale Women’s Center harassers found not guilty by school

yalezetapsi1.jpg Some bad news via Female Impersonator:

At the beginning of the semester, there was an incident here at Yale involving a “fraternity prank” and the Women’s Center where 12 members of the Zeta Psi frat stood in front of the Women’s Center chanting “dick dick dick dick” while holding a sign saying “We Love Yale Sluts.” Quite the incident.
On Monday, the Executive Committee of Yale College found the members of this group not guilty of intimdiation [sic] and harassment charges. No charges of sexual harassment were ever filed, even though complaints were issued with the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board.

The men also intimidated women trying to enter the center. But I guess that’s not harassment, huh? One of the harassed women penned an article for the college paper, noting that she has no recourse to appeal the decision and that “all 12 brothers of Zeta Psi were allowed to read my written affidavit before they wrote their own — 12 iterations of the same collective story.” Charming.
Thanks to Kari for the link.

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39 Comments

  1. AmethystCate
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    As a recent Yale graduate and a former women’s center staffer, let me say (a) I’m ashamed of my alma mater and (b) I’m totally unsurprised. It was widely known when I was a student that the women’s center was only for ‘dykes and whiney feminists’. It’s one of the most inclusive spaces on campus, hosting not only the lesbian society and the “typical women’s issue” groups, but also the gay men’s group, the support group for queer/trans frosh and the very active (at least when I was there) trans community. The administration never quite seemed to understand why this was useful. There were several issues of harassment/attempted violence by male students against female students (one political, two sexual) that I am aware of from my last year at Yale but there was no publicity and no university-brokered justice. They’d rather not make a fuss. sigh.

  2. PixelFish
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Man, that sucks. Is there anywhere we can write to suggest that the school look into creating a strong harrassment policy or to chide them for their cavalier attitude?

  3. Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Another Yale graduate who’s ashamed.
    When I was at Yale in the 1980s, there was no fraternity culture (although there was certainly sexual harassment). As I recall, there was one fraternity at the time. Obviously, there has been a change in our overall society as well as in Yale, but Yale has apparently done nothing (or at least nothing sufficient) to discourage this deterioration in university culture.

  4. indexcard
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    How did these idiots get into Yale? These are the best and brightest in our country? Sad.
    And people wonder why it’s still important to have women’s colleges…

  5. sgzax
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Is their video of the frat behaving in this way? Doesn’t it constitute a violation of their charter?

  6. spike the cat
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    What a bunch of pathetic losers. Look at the posturing and how they are all smiling and holding up their faux gang signs.
    Some blogger should take that picture and reengineer their little sign, with something clever…and evil. Photoshop is a beautiful thing.

  7. Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Omg, I am so glad that our blog got linked to on Feministing.
    This topic is so…enfuriating. There has been a lot of trouble at my own college over the Grievance Panel which hears cases of sexual assault. Seems like a lot of schools just really need to get it together.
    Thanks so much for the exposure! Lindsay really did a great job on the post.

  8. MLEmac
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I honestly want to punch the dude with the “west side” signs. You’re not a fucking thug! You go to Yale!
    I just hope that none of these guys get laid until after they’ve taken a few women’s studies courses and rethink their sexist bullshit.

  9. tinfoil hattie
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    “Never forget how much men hate you.”
    ’cause they do.

  10. Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Is their video of the frat behaving in this way? Doesn’t it constitute a violation of their charter?
    If I’m reading the article correctly, their international frat offices decided to just let the university “punish” them however they see fit. So no, there’s no backlash within their organization either.
    Yeah, here’s what the article states:
    “While Hunter[International Zeta Psi exec director] did not answer messages left over the weekend, members of the fraternity said the international organization decided to let the University judge the case and handle all possible disciplinary action.”

  11. keshmeshi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Ah, keeping up with the traditions of the illustrious George W. Bush.
    Please tell me they’re legacies.

  12. -jro-
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I think these boys need to get the Alex Kochno treatment….in a big bad way.

  13. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes… please? Can’t we feministers do something?
    I mean, these “boys” are going to be power members in our society in a few years. They are going to be in positions to do much more damage than they can do now.
    I would love to assist in a little “educating”…

  14. -jro-
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    maybe we can start here http://www.zetapsi.org/about/chapters

  15. Yashka
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Here’s contact info for Yale president Rick Levin:richard.levin@yale.edu
    203-432-2550
    As another disgusted-but-not-suprised Yale grad, I thought I’d write to the admin and let them know why I won’t be giving this year.
    Here’s the director of the Yale Alumni Fund: Lynn Andrewsen, (203) 432-8197
    lynn.andrewsen@yale.edu
    And the VP for development: Inge T. Reichenbach, (203) 432-5461
    inge.reichenbach@yale.edu

  16. GopherII
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “And people wonder why it’s still important to have women’s colleges”
    indexcard,
    Or even weirder that I should care that women make up around 60% of college attending populous. All the better as far as I’m conserned.”
    I would love to assist in a little “educating”…”
    Second that. I’m also for someone taking a little “vigilante” action. Cant they use the media to shame the school? Or use the media in a more useful way to shed light on this disgusting behavior?

  17. BluePencils
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to hear that nothing’s changed at Yale. Ten years ago, I filed a complaint with the dean about sexual harassment and hostile working conditions, and was basically told that I wasn’t entitled to safe working conditions as I was a grad student and therefore not “working” and told that since it was only my word, it didn’t matter. I’m not going to get into the entire sordid story, but apparently grad students at Yale at the time were neither students nor workers. I had already left Yale, and I wasn’t suing for money, I just wanted to protect future students. I’m sorry that I failed. I should have sued, but I wasn’t emotionally capable of continuing at that time.

  18. liz
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    This makes me want to puke. Does anyone have access to the Yale facebook network by virtue of being a student or alum? If so you can probably do some snooping to figure out the officers of the frat, the participants in this stunt, etc.
    Obviously I am in agreement that they deserve the Alex Kochno treatment. And letters should go to ANYONE with any authority to punish them. If I could, I’d write to their mothers.

  19. Carrie
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    So I’m guessing it wouldn’t be harassment to congregate outside their fraternity house yelling “cunt cunt cunt” or “pussy power pussy power pussy power?”

  20. Tofurific
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I just felt the need to point out something…
    Comments along the line of “How did these idiots get into Yale?” and “Please tell me they’re legacies” actually play right into the popular stereotype that academically-intelligent, “elite” men can’t/don’t do incredibly horrible, sexist things. Because obviously these guys did such a disgusting thing that they couldn’t possibly be smart enough to get into Yale on their own…right? Wrong.
    I don’t care if they’re actually too dumb to have gotten into Yale of their own accord, and I think it’s counterproductive to insinuate such just because of their asinine (and criminal) behavior. By all means, call them idiots, but don’t feed stereotypes that so often get academically-intelligent, “elite” men off the hook.

  21. radrobyn
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, I am pretty much choking with rage right now. Kochno! Kochno!

  22. tofu.mon.amour
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I called the Yale president’s office right after reading this and got an extremely flippant response. The secretary didn’t sound like she had any idea what I was talking about, and blithely suggested that I write a letter to the president expressing my feelings. Wich means…
    That nobody has been calling the president’s office to express their outrage over this! Everybody hit the phones – 203-432-2550

  23. Ayla
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Can the harasses students sue for the harassment and perhaps sue the school for not stopping it/handling it appropriately? I can imagine that the students and their parents are seething, and rightfully so. Disgusting that people should get away with this anywhere, but particularly on a college campus.

  24. Nora
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Even more shocking are the comments that people wrote about the article that one of the harrassed women wrote for the school paper. It strikes me the same way that some of the comments that I’ve heard about Hillary Clinton strike me – there seem to be tons of purportedly liberal, reasonable people out there who have this viscious, hysterical hatred for all things feminist and powerfully female. I don’t think that nearly so many people would stand behind these men in support if they had gone and yelled similarly degrading phrases at the Jewish or African American student centers, for example. It’s horrifying that Yale’s administration doesn’t punish this kind of behavior – as a school, what lessons are they teaching to these men?

  25. Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Nora, you are absolutely right about the comments on her article for the Yale Daily News. But I noticed something– the third one down reads:
    I truly wonder how intimidated you would have felt if you had actually been close enough for the pledges to notice you there. In her written statement to ExComm, Svendson says she saw camera flashes. The picture was taken on an iPhone, which has no flash. Perhaps this stole some credibility from your testimony.”
    The poster (I’m assuming he’s male) makes direct reference to Ms. Svendson’s statement to ExComm, I’m assuming the one which all 12 Zeta Psi brothers were allowed to read before she wrote her own, and speaks of the event as though he were there himself– leading me to believe he might have been one of the participants. If so, not only is there no justice in this instance, but the people who made her feel unsafe are continuing to undermine her credibility.

  26. PghHeartsFeminism
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Behold ladies…
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/23105
    Here is an article that lists the name of the young man holding the sign in the photograph…who claims he never read it…
    And it looks like he can be found here http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=16614585
    He claims in the article that it is unlike him to disrespect women, does he really think that we believe that he thought the sign said something along the lines of “we love the yale women’s center and the services they provide”
    Please.

  27. PghHeartsFeminism
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Behold ladies…
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/23105
    Here is an article that lists the name of the young man holding the sign in the photograph…who claims he never read it…
    And it looks like he can be found here http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=16614585
    He claims in the article that it is unlike him to disrespect women, does he really think that we believe that he thought the sign said something along the lines of “we love the yale women’s center and the services they provide”
    Please.

  28. Mina
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Now I wonder how The Crimson will react in a few weeks (it just reacted to Yale senior Aliza Shvarts’s project: http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=523408 ).

  29. Alison
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    WELL THIS COMES AS A SURPRISE TO NO ONE.
    Do universities ever take sexual harassment seriously?
    And I gave up on reading the newspaper comments. Defending shit like this is almost worse than the actual harassment. Really, guys? You think this was totally benign and friendly? She wasn’t really scared and you can prove it? Really.
    I don’t know what kind of disciplinary options the committee had, but I would like to see community service required more often in cases like this. Administrations have really weak stomachs when it comes to expulsion and probation, so instead they just do NOTHING.
    And that’s what pisses me off about this. I feel so bad for Jessica Svendsen. Because we all know she’s going to end up the “villain” here. Surprise, surprise.

  30. Kmari1222
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I am so disgusted by this it makes me want to puke. I wrote to Levin and I also wrote to two local media sources as well as CNN. I don’t know if it will do anything, but it’s something.

  31. Georgiana
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    The guy holding the sign is Gio Christodoulou. He’s on facebook. I had a nice chat with him in a message and I am proud to claim that 1. He can’t spell and 2. He is extremely sexist – in one of his photographs where he is signing his autograph for an elderly woman, he tagged her as “cock hungry whore.” I suggest more of us start sending messages letting these guys know that if their universities can’t deal with this properly, there are still consequences.

  32. Posted May 1, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    from my personal experience with sexual harassment at my university — i have realized and strongly believe that no action is taken unless there is public outside pressure. For me, working within their own ‘human rights’ office was useless as well.
    The university protects its own interests and wants to keep its image ‘clean’.
    In Canada there are human rights commissions — which are separate bodies where one can bring harassment charges. I went to my unviersity’s HR office, but all they could do was talk to me about how I felt and ‘maybe’ organize a meeting, that would not definitely ensure an apology or any retribution.
    I wonder if Yale students or the centre could file sexual harassment charges elsewhere. I would understand if they wouldn’t want to because going through the process isn’t necessarily easy, especially since a lot of the time there is pressure to shut up and ‘get over it.’

  33. MiddleageLiberal
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    As a Yale alum in one of the first classes to which Yale admitted women, I read the Yale Daily News pretty regularly. I have read all there is in the YDN on this. When the controversy first broke and I saw the picture, my first reaction was, “What a bunch of sexist assholes. How proud their mothers must be.”
    Certainly the stunt of the photograph was sexist, misogynist and stupid. Certainly it was worthy of opprobrium; perhaps formal discipline.
    However, descriptions of the event have apparently embellished what actually occurred and this has eroded support the Women’s Center would otherwise have received. The embellishments appear in the main article above, including the implication that several women were intimidated that night and that the chants were indisputably “dick”.
    One woman (not the implied several), the same woman who wrote the article criticizing the disciplinary committee, claimed she was intimidated into using a different entrance. The claim was not made following the incident but rather as part of the announcement “This time we sue” when the offensive photo on a Facebook page was copied by a Women’s Center supporter and circulated via internet to the Yale community. There has been no claim anything was directed at her or that the frat asshats even knew of her presence.
    Some have said the chant was “deek” (for another frat DKE), which actually makes a little more sense than “dick” in the context of a fraternity pledge outing.
    My point is that the Yale Women’s Center has contributed to its own marginalization by trying to make the stunt even worse than it actually was. Instead of using the photograph, all by itself, as a rallying point to gather more support and to engage people of good will into productive discussion and engagement for change, the Women’s Center left itself open to charges of overreaction and overkill.
    Before you rail at me for trying to apologize for those jerks (which I am NOT doing), please go back and read my first two paragraphs again.

  34. MiddleageLiberal
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Edit above:
    “…for trying to apologize for those jerks (which I am NOT doing)…”
    should be:
    “for trying to excuse those jerks (which I am NOT doing)”
    Not my place to apologize for them.

  35. pixelgem
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Just remember that any job recruiter worth his/her salt will Google candidates’ names, and Mr. Christodoulou, like Mr. Kochno before him, will have some ‘splainin’ to do in his job interviews.

  36. Lucy
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    It truly does sicken me. People constantly act as if rape is a joke. But I bet if those same people who make fun of it were caught in that situation, they’d hide from the world for eternity. Those females who actually get the courage to go to the women’s center need comfort, not ignorant males laughing at them. I use to think universities and colleges were full with smart, intelligent, mature people, but they proved me wrong.
    What these men, or should I say foolish boys, did is nauseating. How dare they basically “laugh� at the female gender?!?! How they hell would they feel if their mother or sister or daughter was raped then tormented like this? I hate it how people do things before they think. They never think about others or the possibilities of someone getting hurt. I guess they’re too selfish to think about anyone besides themselves. Uggh! It just aggravates me how ignorant and obnoxious they were to do this act. This has to be by far one of the most insulting things I’ve read about.
    It really does suck that females are at a higher risk of getting raped than males.

  37. Amy
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    This kind of sexual harassment is too often ignored at university, and I wish that more cases like these could be brought to the media’s attention.
    When I was an undergraduate, a group of boys in my dorm broke into my room while I was away at class and wrote threatening, “I’m going to rape you” messages on my dry eraser board. Why? They didn’t care for an article that I had written for the school newspaper. I was shocked that the university completely ignored the whole incident — as did my Resident Advisor. I was terrified and embarrassed by what had happened. I ended up transferring to another university the following year. It’s very frustrating that university administrators don’t take these violations seriously!

  38. Amy
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    This kind of sexual harassment is too often ignored at university, and I wish that more cases like these could be brought to the media’s attention.
    When I was an undergraduate, a group of boys in my dorm broke into my room while I was away at class and wrote threatening, “I’m going to rape you” messages on my dry eraser board. Why? They didn’t care for an article that I had written for the school newspaper. I was shocked that the university completely ignored the whole incident — as did my Resident Advisor. I was terrified and embarrassed by what had happened. I ended up transferring to another university the following year. It’s very frustrating when university administrators don’t take these violations seriously!

  39. AmethystCate
    Posted May 9, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24754
    The YDN responds to their own comments thread in case anyone’s interested.

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