Yale is Missing a HUGE Opportunity


Dear Engaged Bystander: Yale likes to think that when they speak the world listens. In this case, the world is listening to an incredibly disturbing incident. If you have not heard, on October 13, a group of pledges from a Yale fraternity marched through a part of the Yale campus where most of the freshman women are housed chanting “No means Yes, Yes means anal!” They continued with “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f*ck dead women, and fill them with my semen.

This incident was caught on YouTube and thankfully, there has been nationwide outrage – especially when you know that two of our presidents (Presidents George H and George W Bush) were a part of this particular Yale fraternity. And on campus, the incident was not ignored. The fraternity was ordered to suspend all new member activity, the fraternity issued an apology, Yale administration issued a statement, and Yale held a workshop that included men from the fraternity and the Yale Women’s Center. 
I am glad that this was not completely ignored – it is a good beginning. But it is only a beginning and in particular, Yale did not do enough.  In the letter from Dean Mary Miller, she does condemn the incident in her first sentence, but her second sentence and most of her letter is about the importance of free speech.   
I am sorry, but I really don’t see this as an issue of free speech. Dean Miller had a huge opportunity and she totally missed the chance to model a different kind of response. 
  • She could have described in her letter WHY she was outraged by this incident.
  • She had the opportunity to educate people about the problem and talk about how according to the Department of Justice, one in four women will experience rape or attempted rape while at a college or university. 
  • She had the power to show the potential impact on the entire Yale community and demand that the young men do community service, to publicly make amends for what they had done. She could also have simply asked each of these young men to make a formal public apology to his mother, or sister or friend for what he did.
  • She should have modeled for the country how to set a tone of respect for a university that has zero tolerance for any form of sexual disrespect, harassment or assault. 
One of the best commentaries I have read about this incident was written by Sarah Darer Littman on CT News Junkie.  If you read nothing else, read this one.  
And if you have any connection to Yale, please write them a letter. If this is a beginning for them, I think that they need our help to tell them how far we need them to go. This time, Yale needs to listen…