Women Sue Yale Over Exclusive Fraternities

Across the Ivy League, the prominence of Greek life varies. Across the country, however, fraternities and sororities continue to create controversy over sexual misconduct and hazing.  Now, students have come forward to critique the larger issue of whether the culture and social networking that goes on in fraternities systematically disadvantages women.

On February 12, 2018, Anna McNeil, Eliana Singer, and Ry Walker, students at Yale University, filed a class-action lawsuit against the university for violating Title IX of federal education law, which is a federal law that forbids discrimination based on sex in federally funded educational programs and activities.

The lawsuit claims that all-male fraternities encourage a culture of sexual misconduct and normalize gender discrimination. Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that, by not providing admission to female and non-binary students, Yale limits their access to an extensive alumni network that could aid in landing occupational opportunities that sororities are unable to provide. One of the plaintiff’s attorneys said, “Yale promises female students an educational environment free of gender discrimination, but the reality of campus life does not deliver on that promise.”

One of the plaintiffs, Eliana Singer, said, “Right now, students are forced to make a choice between having a social life and not feeling safe at parties, or feeling safe but barely being able to go out at all. We want Yale to take decisive action… so people no longer are forced to make that choice.”

The plaintiffs propose an order for “sober monitors” to be available for off-campus events, while also requesting that the university integrate women and permit them to share in the benefits of membership at fraternities. The lawsuit states, “Fraternities elevate men to social gatekeepers and relegate women and non-binary students to sexual objects.”

Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy shared a message sent by Dean Marvin Chun, which read, “I condemn the culture described in these accounts; it runs counter to our community’s values of making everyone feel welcome, respected, and safe. [Yale] plays no formal role in the organizations not affiliated with the university, including Greek organizations.”  The lawsuit disputes Yale’s claim that fraternities are not “affiliated with the university,” however, noting that “fraternities act as extensions of Yale,” because Yale permits them to use the Yale name, Yale email addresses, Yale bulletin boards, and campus facilities for recruitment and events.

Yale refuses to comment on the lawsuit in detail but the university continues to take action on sexual misconduct cases reported on its campus.