What is going on with Greek life at Yale?

What is going on with Greek life at Yale?

If you are applying to Yale or are interested in applying to Yale, you have probably learned the social scene largely revolves around three things: the residential hall system, extracurriculars, and Greek life. But, Greek life has been in the spotlight after three Yale students sued Yale and nine fraternities in February for creating a sexually hostile environment. The students’ solution is to make fraternities open to all genders so that the planning of parties is not dominated by a single-gendered mindset.

The plaintiffs’ complaint is that because the university lacks many other social spaces, fraternities control the social scene which creates conditions ripe for sexual misconduct. This is partially because the three plaintiffs – Anna McNeil ’20, Ry Walker ’20, and Ellie Singer ’21 – claimed they experienced sexual misconduct while going to a fraternity party their first semester of freshman year. This claim raises a couple of serious questions for prospective students. Are fraternity parties the only social outlet for students at Yale? And, will I be a victim of sexual misconduct if I go to one?

A 2016 Yale College Council (YCC) survey of 1,800 students spanning four graduation years found that about 70% of students attended an open Greek party at least once or twice per month. “Frat hopping” is a common social outlet for all Yale students, and a fraternity member we interviewed says that is because of its convenience, stating, “Greek life is a major social outlet I think because it’s the most convenient. You can walk over, everybody is welcome, and you can hop from house to house.”

The same YCC survey found that about 43% of students either agreed or strongly agreed to the statement, “I feel comfortable and safe attending open parties at Greek organizations,” while about 32% either disagreed or strongly disagreed. It also found that students are more likely to attend residential suite parties than other options, including extracurricular parties, Greek life parties, and bars.

So, if this survey found that students are more likely to attend residential suite parties, why do students still feel that Greek life is the only option? Let’s take the case of a male, bisexual, Hispanic, student who echoes the claim that Greek life has too much of a foothold on the social scene. Like most freshmen, he went to fraternity parties his first semester before joining Sabrosura, a Latin dance team, and discovered that he had more fun at their residential suite parties. Even after joining the club, he still says he wishes there were more social spaces, saying, “I wish there were more social spaces on campus other than fraternities. I wish there was more funding for specific places for people to rent out to have a party. There are so many places on campus that are left empty. We definitely have groups on campus that rent places and throw parties, but I wish we had more that did.” This makes it seem that the issue doesn’t lie in the lack of spaces for alternatives to Greek life, it lies in people’s willingness to use the available spaces.

At Induck, we believe part of the issue may be that the guidelines for throwing a party in a suite, which from the college’s point of view seem reasonable, deter students from wanting to throw residential suite parties. For example, the Morse College’s guidelines for having a party require students to submit the registration for a party 48 hours in advance, hosts assume personal and legal responsibility for the conduct of guests, and are required to clean up the hallways, stairs, bathrooms, and courtyard immediately after the party. This puts the hosts in a position where they are working more than enjoying themselves at the party and could have to compensate or be sanctioned for others’ actions at the party. We are not so naïve to think that every residential suite party follows the guidelines and is registered with the college, but we do see why student groups, such as Sabrosura, aren’t hosting parties for their members and others every weekend. On the other hand, Greek life organizations can throw parties in their houses without registering them and can clean up whenever they please.

The defense attorney for the fraternities described the plaintiffs’ accusations against the University and its organizations as “baseless and unfounded,” which may be true legally, but the percentage of students who don’t feel comfortable at Greek parties show that something should change. In 2016, Yale responded to the Greek Task Force report by seeking stronger ties with the Greek organizations and did so again in 2018 to discuss ways to stop sexual misconduct in fraternity houses and increase member diversity. We hope that Greek life at Yale can change for the better, but we also hope that you, the future students at Yale, will take the time and effort to host more residential suite parties and apartment parties for smaller groups of people so they don’t feel like they have to go to a fraternity party that weekend.

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