Alleging widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at nine Yale University fraternities, three female undergraduate students have sued the Ivy League university, claiming it knew about the climate in those fraternities and did nothing to address it.
In the strongly worded lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, Yale students Anna McNeil, Eliana Singer and Ry Walker said they and many other female students were subjected to abuse.
News reports show the plaintiffs were also involved in protests against former Yale graduate and current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct during his confirmation hearing. Walker was a rally organizer for one event, according to the reports.
“Many Yale students now accept and assume that female undergraduates risk sexual harassment and assault by attending fraternity events,” the lawsuit said. “Fraternity brothers and male attendees regularly deny female students admission to parties based on their appearance, verbally harass them, grind up against them, and grope them. Moreover, throughout plaintiffs’ time at Yale, numerous reports have emerged of rape and sexual assault committed by Yale University brothers.”
The 85-page complaint seeks class certification, compensatory and punitive damages, and an order requiring Yale to “initiate and implement programs and policies that remedy gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile environment at the university.”
Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said Tuesday he had no comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit, but said the university has been proactive.
“Any complaint of sexual misconduct brought forward by a student is investigated,” Conroy said. He added that last month, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun described how Yale is partnering with students to build a better culture and sponsor more social opportunities for students on campus, noting that “all students are subject to discipline for violations of regulations against sexual misconduct and other prohibited behavior.”
But the students bringing suit allege otherwise, claiming the Yale administration was well aware of the alleged abuses, but failed to properly address the issue.
“Plaintiffs have repeatedly petitioned Yale to intervene on their behalf and end the discriminatory admission practices of defendant fraternities,” their lawsuit states. “The university, however, has refused to take meaningful steps to alter the fraternities’ admission practices or address the hostile environment.”
The lawsuit is replete with numerous alleged instances of fraternity-related sexual misconduct.
One fraternity, the lawsuit said, had pledges pose for photographs outside the Yale University Women’s Center with a sign using derogatory and sexualized terms to describe women. Other more graphic examples were laid out in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also want admission to the fraternities.
“Women on campus must navigate a hostile, all-male fraternity scene that plays a significant role in campus social life,” plaintiff counsel David Sanford, chairman of New York City-based Sanford Heisler Sharp, wrote in a press release Tuesday morning. “Male members of the fraternities control and create dangerous party environments in which sexual misconduct thrives. Although Yale has known about these conditions for more than a decade, the university has failed to protect its students.”
Attorneys David Tracey, Albert Powell and Scott Sullivan assisted Sanford in representing the plaintiffs. Also representing the plaintiffs was Milford, Connecticut-based solo practitioner David Schneider.