Yale University Gender Discrimination

Case Type: Gender Discrimination/Title IX

Organization: Yale University

Attorneys from Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a class action complaint against Yale University and nine of its all-male fraternities today in United States District Court for the District of Connecticut alleging the defendants discriminate against female students and subject them to a sexually hostile environment. In addition to other relief, the plaintiffs seek an order requiring all Yale fraternities to fully integrate women into their organizations.

The plaintiffs are three female Yale undergraduates – juniors Anna McNeil and Ry Walker and sophomore Eliana Singer. They are represented in the matter by a Sanford Heisler Sharp team led by Chairman and Founder of the firm, David Sanford, attorneys David Tracey and Albert Powell, and Scott Sullivan, who is Of Counsel to the firm.

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“Yale promises female students an educational environment free of gender discrimination, but the reality of campus life does not deliver on that promise,” said Sanford. “Women on campus must navigate a hostile, all-male fraternity scene that plays a significant role in campus social life. 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. Faced with Yale’s deliberate indifference and the continuing dangers, students now turn to federal court to make their campus safe.”

In addition to Yale, the plaintiffs are suing the national organizations, local chapters and housing corporations of the university’s fraternities – Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Delta Phi, Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon/Leo, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Zeta Psi.

Yale’s fraternity alumni include powerful business and political leaders, such as former President George W. Bush and Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh – both alumni of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

According to the complaint, the three student plaintiffs were groped at fraternity parties in their first semesters at Yale. The student plaintiffs know of other female students who experienced similar sexual harassment and assault during and after fraternity parties and at the hands of fraternity brothers.

The complaint also alleges that fraternities offer Yale men social and economic opportunities that are denied to female students. In addition to controlling many of Yale’s parties, fraternity brothers have access to a nationwide alumni-network, which often results in coveted job opportunities.

The plaintiffs, however, refused to accept this status quo. They decided to challenge fraternity-related discrimination and sexual misconduct by demanding gender integration. In every year of their college careers, the plaintiffs have petitioned Yale’s fraternities for the chance to become members. The fraternities have consistently rejected the plaintiffs because of their gender.

“Gender discrimination and sexual assault should have no place at Yale,” said David Tracey, attorney for the Plaintiffs, who is also a Yale College alumnus. “Fraternities discriminate against women are known sites of sexual harassment and assault. It is inconsistent for Yale to profess ideals of equality while permitting fraternities to thrive.”

Yale has long been embroiled in scandals related to its all-male fraternities. In 2008, pledges of Zeta Psi posed outside the Yale Women’s Center with a sign stating, “We Love Yale Sluts.” In October 2010, pledges of Delta Kappa Epsilon paraded around campus chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” In 2015, partygoers were allegedly turned away from Sigma Alpha Epsilon because brothers wanted “white girls only.” And in 2018, public reports emerged of ten women with sexual misconduct allegations against members of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

Harvard Versus Yale: The Right Versus The Wrong

Since 2016, Harvard students who are members of single-gender clubs have been barred from leading campus groups, barred from becoming captains of sports teams, and denied endorsements from Harvard for prestigious fellowships. Those single-gender organizations, said former Harvard President Drew Faust, enacted “forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values.” Various organizations have sued Harvard over that policy and that suit is currently pending.

Regarding the Harvard/Yale divide, Sanford said, “Yale should follow Harvard and commit to enacting reform consistent with Yale’s deepest values of inclusion, equality, and diversity. Harvard did the right thing; to date, Yale has failed. Harvard is getting sued for doing the right thing; Yale is now being sued for doing the wrong thing. Yale should be with Harvard on the right side of the law and on the right side of history.”

The Complaint Against Yale

The complaint alleges violations of Title IX, the federal Fair Housing Act, Connecticut’s law against discrimination in places of public accommodation, the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, and breach of contract.

The plaintiffs seek certification of the case as a class action, an injunction against the fraternities from discriminating by gender in admissions and housing, an order requiring Yale to take measures to remedy the gender discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile environment at the institution, monetary damages and other relief. A jury trial is requested.

Attorneys Involved in the Case