Yale University Gender Discrimination

Case name: Anna McNeil, Eliana Singer, Ry Walker, et al. v. Yale University, et al.

Case type: Gender Discrimination and Title IX

Filed in: [U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut]

Docket: [Case no. 3:19-cv-00209]

Case Summary

In July 2019, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a Second Amended Class Complaint against Yale University and nine of its all-male fraternities, alleging that the fraternities discriminate against women based on gender and subject them to a sexually hostile environment. The Complaint further alleged that the University fails to protect its own students by taking a “hands-off” approach to the fraternities’ misconduct.

The original Class Action Complaint was filed in February 2019 on behalf of Plaintiffs Anna McNeil, Eliana Singer, and Ry Walker, undergraduate students at Yale and co-directors of Plaintiff Engender, an undergraduate organization dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion within the Yale community.

In addition to Yale, the Plaintiffs sued the national organizations, local chapters and housing corporations of the following 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.

The Complaint alleged violations of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Title IX, in addition to various state laws. Among other forms of relief, the Complaint sought an order requiring all Yale fraternities to fully integrate women into their organizations and housing.

According to the Complaint, Ms. McNeil, Ms. Singer, and Ms. Walker were groped at fraternity parties in their first semesters at Yale and knew 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 alleged that such incidents were endemic at Yale, whose lack of University-run social spaces make the all-male fraternity scene the de facto social environment for many students. In attempting to avoid its own liability, the Complaint alleged, Yale in effect ceded on-campus social activities to the fraternities while refusing to regulate them or enforce appropriate safety standards.

Refusing to accept the status quo, the Plaintiffs challenged the fraternity-related discrimination and sexual misconduct by demanding gender integration. For three straight years, the Plaintiffs petitioned Yale’s fraternities for the chance to become members but were consistently rejected, according to the Complaint.

After the District Court’s partial dismissal on a motion to dismiss the case, the Plaintiffs resolved the case against Yale University. They then appealed the dismissal of their housing discrimination claims against the fraternities to the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit partially reversed the District Court and granted the Plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their complaint to restate the housing discrimination claims. Ultimately, the Plaintiffs entered a voluntary dismissal of their remaining claims.

During the course of the litigation, at least one formerly all-male fraternity chapter at Yale decided to open itself to students of all genders.

Attorneys Involved in the Case

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