Harassment at SAE and its fallout

Harassment at SAE
and its fallout

Published on April 16, 2015

The pledges of Yale University’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE, are required to wear a uniform of a blazer, button-down and tie — conspicuous garb for teenagers on a college campus, though they wear it proudly. The night of Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, was no exception.

Twenty-two men clamored into the fraternity’s off-campus house at 35 High St. The inside was dark. The pledges were greeted by the boisterous shouts of roughly 30 older members sitting on couches lined against the walls, decorated with framed photo composites of past fraternity classes dating back decades. Soon, the new pledge class’s yearbook-worthy smiles would hang beside them. But first, they had to undergo initiation, their inaugural act as SAE brothers.

Traditionally, the SAE president recounts fraternity lore. Pledges recite an oath. Two senior “chaplains,” elected by their brothers for their entertainment value, give a presentation dressed in ridiculous clothes. The presentation is usually a mythological story about Minerva, the Roman goddess and patron saint of SAE, and the dirty details of her sexual encounters. It is lewd, but tongue-in-cheek in spirit.

For the spring 2014 pledge class, however, the chaplains typed a speech about a different set of characters, who were not fictional. Among them was Zoe, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore they identified by name, but whose name has been changed for this story in an effort to protect her identity. In the six months before the ceremony, Zoe had engaged in sexual acts with five members of the fraternity — including the two chaplains. The title of the speech, as it has come to be known and discussed around campus, used her name in association with “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the best-selling novel-turned-film focusing on a sadomasochistic relationship.

These events were described to the News by two individuals who were present and by a third to whom the activities were later recounted in detail. The SAE brothers cited in this story spoke under the condition of anonymity. Aspects of the ceremony were also corroborated by documents pertaining to a University investigation that examined the events of that evening and its aftermath.

These documents — as well as interviews with Zoe and several SAE brothers and the statements of University administrators who dealt with the case — show how members of a Yale fraternity made a female classmate and her sexual experiences the butt of a public joke consecrating membership in their ranks. Further, they outline the victim’s months long battle to get the University to hold the fraternity accountable in a public forum, to announce to students what had been a private conclusion of a confidential disciplinary proceeding about a matter that had already leaked into the campus rumor mill.

When the University did make an announcement, a full year after the event itself, it offered an incomplete picture of the case, foregrounding the fraternity’s positive reforms and casting the incident as a teaching moment for the campus. What was touted by the University as evidence of its transparent approach to handling sexual misconduct was rather the result of Zoe’s protracted effort to move Yale to action. When Yale did act publicly, it shut her out of the process altogether.

Timeline: From SAE initiation to UWC case

THE ROAST

The Speech

The fact-finder’s report describes the chaplains’ remarks

Zoe’s relationships with the five SAE brothers described in the speech occurred from September 2013 to the following February. Her involvement with two of the men lasted from September to December, and the other three occurred in quick succession in January. She described these encounters as “consensual, casual relations.”

Following her involvement with the men, Zoe commented on some of their sexual performances in conversation with the fraternity president, a junior at the time. He was one of the five fraternity brothers with whom she had sexual relations, but she had come to regard him as a friend. Zoe said she felt they had come to trust each other. As they were both sharing details about their sex lives over the course of multiple conversations, Zoe told him that one brother climaxed quickly, another was enthusiastic about giving oral sex and a third enjoyed cuddling. He later passed along those comments to the group of the other four brothers, according to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct panel’s report.

Zoe’s comments spread “like wildfire,” one of the chaplains later told an independent factfinder assigned to investigate the incident. “She had provided intimate and private details about these encounters to others,” he wrote in a statement to the UWC last April. “Our encounters had become public knowledge to many in the Yale community.” Embarrassed that multiple peers had teased them about their sexual performances, the chaplains decided to address the comments publicly. Their roast became their platform.

Inside the fraternity house, the chaplains spoke in mock Spanish and Arabic accents, introducing Zoe as someone who had engaged in sexual relations with five members of the fraternity. The names of those members were listed, followed by description of their sexual performances based on the comments allegedly made by Zoe. Some of the comments mentioned in the speech were fabricated, according to Zoe, including remarks about the pubic hair of one brother.

Though the brothers had previously gossiped about her ratings, many of the freshman pledges had not heard her name before, according to SAE brothers present. Meanwhile, some of the older members who knew her sat in the back, presiding over the soon-to-be new brothers lined up in the middle of the room. No one interrupted.

The speech was a “ridiculous five minutes,” the SAE president told the fact-finder. By the end of the night, SAE had initiated 22 new members.

 

THE RUMORS

At Box 63

The fact-finder's report describes ensuing sexual harassment.

Zoe went to Box 63 with some friends on the Friday night after initiation. It was Valentine’s Day. Undergraduates flooded the dark dance floor, clustering around the bar and waving credit cards to pay for beer and hard liquor served in plastic cups. Amid the crowd, a freshman SAE pledge slipped his arm around Zoe and went in for a kiss. According to the UWC’s report, she pushed him away, but he continued flirting: “I know you like SAE boys.”

Zoe withdrew from his embrace and rejoined her friends on the dance floor. But another group of young men approached her, dancing close to her and trying to touch her. “We know you like SAE boys,” at least one of them said before an older member of SAE told them to back off. She had never indicated interest in them.

Zoe was never meant to find out why she was suddenly attracting so much attention — chapter rituals are supposed to be secret. But, on Feb. 24, her roommate sat down on her bed to recount the rumors that had been swirling around campus — about her sex life and its role in the SAE initiation.

In that moment, however, Zoe did not grasp how those rumors would consume her life at Yale over the next year.

On Feb. 14, Zoe went to Box 63 on Elm Street. Men approached her, saying, 'We know you like SAE boys. (Ken Yanagisawa, Photography Editor)

Zoe and the SAE president met at Wall Street Pizza in the wake of the initiation. (Julia Henry)

On Feb. 26, Zoe texted the SAE president to ask to meet with him. At Wall Street Pizza, he recounted what occurred at the initiation. He had no role in the creation of the speech, nor did he approve it in advance, he told her. He downplayed its contents, saying the remarks about her were brief. The purpose of the speech was to poke fun at the brothers and be self-deprecating, not to publicly shame her, he said — reasoning that the chaplains later echoed in conversations with her.

The discussion inside the pizza joint turned to the president’s advice for her. When Zoe told him that her friends had urged her to alert University officials, the president warned her to lay low: bringing the event to the administration’s attention would hurt her already damaged reputation, as well as that of the fraternity. So, too, would continuing to drink and hook up tarnish her image on campus. She could expect phone calls for hookups in the middle of the night, but none to ask her out on a date, he told her. “I gave her my honest opinion and said that I thought that this would not be the best course of action,” the president wrote about the conversation in a statement to the UWC last April. “I did this in good faith, acting as a friend to whom she had come for advice … I in no way intended to threaten her.”

It was after this conversation that Zoe realized she had lost control of the situation.

“If I had found out about these boys talking about me and stuff that they had done with me and things that I had allegedly said about them in the comfort of their own homes, I would not have been surprised,’” she said. “Of course they’re going to talk about me. Girls talk about this all the time. Guys talk about this all the time. That in itself would not have bothered me.” The fact that this was an official initiation event in front of almost two dozen freshman boys, as well as many male classmates she considered friends, was what scared her.

Zoe struggled with the decision to file a complaint. She spoke with her sisters, several of her close friends and the dean of her residential college. “It occupied my mind, every single minute of the day,” she said. She suddenly had the feeling that everyone knew who she was and that they were talking about her. She was simultaneously disturbed by what they knew, but also anxious that all the gossip had twisted the truth of what had actually occurred.

Throughout the spring, she was acutely aware of encounters with SAE members around campus, doing her best to avoid the five men featured in the speech, including one who was in her residential college. She stopped going to classes and going out on weekends. She lost sight of her academic work.

She lost sleep. Her appetite seemed to diminish. She texted her sister in March: “I either report it and get blacklisted by SAE and have a lot of people hate me, or I do nothing and let them get away with it and have people judge me for letting them take advantage of me. It’s such a lose lose.”

But finally, she resolved not to take the president’s advice. She would make a complaint.

 

THE INVESTIGATION

On April 21, roughly nine weeks after the initiation event, Zoe filed a formal complaint with the UWC against the fraternity president and the two chaplains. She cited not only the pledge event itself, but also what she considered to be ensuing sexual harassment — from her runin with fraternity members at Box 63 to her conversation with the SAE president at Wall Street Pizza following the initiation. The UWC formally charged the members on April 25.

Over the course of one week, the News sought comment from the three brothers, but they did not respond. Yale SAE as an organization declined to comment on the events of initiation to abide by a confidentiality agreement governing UWC proceedings.

According to UWC procedures, the committee responds to a formal complaint by requesting a report from an independent fact-finder and conducting at least one hearing. A five-person panel selected from within the UWC then judges whether or not the respondent has violated University policy. If the panel finds the respondent responsible, it prescribes punishments, which are subject to the approval and modifications of a “final decision-maker,” in this case the dean of Yale College.

Over the course of about a month, the independent factfinder, Miriam Berkman LAW ’82, interviewed Zoe, her friends, the three accused brothers and other members of the fraternity. As a supervisor at the Yale Child Study Center’s Trauma Section, Berkman is not formally independent from the University, as UWC regulations state factfinders must be.

Her investigation was impeded by SAE members’ repeated attempts to shape the account of the events she was seeking to retrace. According to the documents, the two chaplains claimed they had no electronic or paper access to the original speech to submit to Berkman, who then asked one of them to hand over his laptop to Yale Police to see if the document could be recovered from the hard drive. The chaplain replied that he could not do so — he was on a train to New York and flying out of the country the following morning.

The president also advised fraternity members about “sticking to the same story” when talking to Berkman to avoid putting the fraternity at risk, according to the panel report. He maintained that his comment was in reference to the chapter’s violation of SAE’s March 2014 national ban on pledging, but the UWC panel also wrote that it stemmed from an encouragement to lie to the fact-finder. The panel found that “fraternity members were likely to interpret [the president’s] statement as advice intended to dissuade them from being forthcoming and honest … as President of the fraternity, [he] failed to make it clear to members that they were free to cooperate with the UWC investigation and that doing so would not impact their standing in the fraternity.”

“Taken together, these passive refusals to participate in the UWC investigation process indicate at least that members of the fraternity are reluctant or afraid to talk about matters related to the activities of the fraternity,” Berkman stated in her June 11, 2014 report.

To encourage SAE members to cooperate with her investigation, the fact-finder did not disclose the identities of four freshmen interviewed who were present at the initiation event, deviating from standard UWC practice of naming witnesses in reports.

“I am trying to find a way for them to testify without being specifically named in my report and I believe I have worked this out with the Counsel’s office,” she wrote in an email to Zoe dated May 21, 2014. If a critical mass of brothers came forward, she said, “it will keep any one individual from being singled out for retribution” by other members of the fraternity. By contrast, a witness vouching for Zoe was named in the report, which left the individual vulnerable to retaliation by members of SAE, Zoe said. When contacted by the News, Berkman declined to comment on this disparity, citing confidentiality of UWC cases.

The UWC panel held the hearing on July 7. Zoe and the three brothers delivered pre-written opening statements, which were provided to the News. One of the chaplains said the speech was “meant to be self-deprecating and light-hearted” and conceded that he had since come to recognize the “unintended consequences of a thoughtless action.” The other chaplain emphasized his “acute sense that a very large group of people, many of whom I did not know, knew of these mortifying and embarrassing details of my sexual relationship with [Zoe]” and that the speech was a means of coping with his “mortification.”

In his statement before the panel, the president defended his conversation with Zoe at Wall Street Pizza, citing the “disconnect between [Zoe’s] impressions and my intentions” as a challenge to the accusation that he threatened her. He denied that he placed “any pressure on anyone to make a misleading statement” to the fact-finder. And further, he claimed she “bore some responsibility for fueling gossip about her private life by choosing to discuss details of her sexual encounters with friends.”

The panel's conclusion

The panel’s report is timestamped July 14. It concluded that the president and the two chaplains had violated Yale’s sexual misconduct policy by engaging in sexual harassment — the two chaplains in their speech and the president in his failure to stop it, as well as in his subsequent behavior. The president had impeded the investigation, and though he had not threatened Zoe, his remarks to her had the effect of perpetuating a hostile climate based on her gender, the panel found.

“In general, [the president’s] actions after the … event were focused on protecting … the fraternity and on shielding it from any responsibility for the speech in February rather than on stopping or repairing the damage caused by it,” the panel wrote in its report.

All three brothers were put on probation, which was noted on their academic records. The two chaplains, who graduated that spring, would receive their diplomas, but their probation would remain on their academic records. The panel recommended the president receive “training on leadership and sexual harassment.”

Further, the University was to implement sanctions against the fraternity as a whole. These included a ban on on-campus activities, a ban on communication via Yale email systems and bulletin boards and a prohibition on the use of the SAE name in connection with Yale for a period of two years, ending August 2016. The panel also recommended that the SAE national headquarters “take appropriate disciplinary action — beyond the action already taken by Yale — against the local chapter.”

The panel's recommendations

The three brothers, along with the fraternity, face sanctions

The president and one of the chaplains filed appeals with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, the final decision-maker in the case, protesting the UWC’s findings and requesting that he reduce the recommended sanctions. But Holloway endorsed the panel’s recommendations on July 22.

On July 30, Zoe was informed that the president had appealed Holloway’s decision to Provost Benjamin Polak. On Aug. 18, Polak rejected his appeal.

Meanwhile, SAE national headquarters did not receive notification of the incident until administrators contacted them in August 2014, roughly five months after Zoe filed the formal complaint, at which point they launched an investigation to learn more details about what may have happened, said Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for SAE national. “We cannot validate what may have been said between various members or between members and nonmembers,” he wrote in an email. “Regardless, we absolutely expect our brothers to act as gentlemen at all times and do not condone demeaning or derogatory language. The headquarters imposed a number of sanctions on the chapter.” He did not respond to subsequent inquiries seeking specific details of the sanctions.

But as it would become clear in the fall semester, those measures — in addition to the sanctions imposed by the University — did not carry much weight. 

Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity faces sanctions pertaining to a Feb. 12, 2014 initation ceremony and ensuing actions that the UWC found constituted sexual misconduct. (Ken Yanagisawa, Photography Editor)

THE SANCTIONS: IN ‘LETTER,’ BUT NOT IN ‘SPIRIT’

It was 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2014, almost 10 months after SAE initiation. It was cold enough to warrant a ski jacket. The houses of High Street, Yale’s equivalent of “Fraternity Row,” pulsated with the beats of dance music. At SAE, a pair of brothers wearing ski masks sat on the stoop, guarding the door above which their letters hang. After passing an ID inspection, guests were directed through the house to the backyard, the source of the music. Students lined up to take shots from an ice luge, then arranged shot glasses on a ski to take a round as a group. Paper snowflakes hung from string across the patio. A bubble machine overhead created a snowfall effect. The theme was “Après Ski.”

Hundreds of Yale students were invited to a December party hosted and jointly sponsored by SAE

Hundreds of Yale students had received a Facebook invitation to the event reading, “après-ski / verb/ (Turkish: getting drunk before reading week, after skiing): going out, having a good time, dancing and socializing after skiing … Skiing experience optional, ski attire, required.” The Yale European Undergraduates, Yale Arab Student Association and the “brothers of SAE” were hosting, according to a screenshot of the event invitation. The event was typical frat bacchanalia, nothing out of the ordinary. SAE traditionally throws “Late Night” parties on Thursdays, offering beer from kegs and punch to anyone with a Yale ID. The event was later deleted from Facebook.

Administrators were unaware of the event at the time, only later learning of it when Zoe brought it to their attention as a violation of the terms of the University’s sanctions against SAE — they were co-hosting an event with Yale organizations, failing to comply with restrictions on using their name in conjunction with the Yale brand. SAE said they did not know it was a breach. “We were not aware it constituted a violation of the sanctions,” the brothers said in an emailed statement to the News. “The Apres Ski party was financed and planned entirely by the [Yale European Undergraduates]. It was merely held on our property.”

The News could not find evidence of any concrete measures taken by the University to monitor SAE’s compliance with the terms of their probation, which had minor effects on the everyday operations of the fraternity. “The punishment was a slap on the wrist,” said a student who was a brother at the time. Because SAE’s house is off-campus, the on-campus ban had virtually no impact, like imposing rules on residents of one state and expecting them to apply to residents across the border. SAE could advertise its functions via Facebook or Gmail rather than Yale email. On the day after the sanctions were handed down, some of the brothers created a map with locations of where SAE could host parties and events because they could not do so on Yale’s campus or Universityowned properties, according to two students who were SAE brothers at the time. “They were not accepting the spirit of the punishment,” a former brother said. “Just the letter of the punishment.”

Meanwhile, the administration tried to implement cultural reform within the fraternity to varying degrees of success, reflecting a history of fraught relations. Holloway said the administration has continuously questioned keeping Greek life as a whole — nine fraternities and three sororities — at arm’s length. “Some say we really need to strengthen our ties because then we can control them better,” he said in an interview about how the University interacts with Greek organizations. “Others say we don’t want this risk. This is out of control. They are a liability. I don’t think Yale has really made a firm commitment.” Indeed, Holloway said the power of the University to regulate an off-campus group with Yale affiliation, such as Greek organizations, is “limited.”

“But as individuals in the organization, they are still Yale students,” he added. “So if a Yale student is found in violation, we have the full power of the University.”

Hannah Peck DIV ’11, director of student affairs and Yale’s designated Greek life liaison, had engaged fraternity leadership in ongoing conversations throughout the fall 2014 semester, “trying to build trust amongst the organizations,” as Holloway explained. The brothers confirmed in an email that they “have been in constant contact with the administration, both to ensure that the sanctions are being followed and to assist … in moving past the incident of last spring.”

But the purpose of these discussions was not to emphasize SAE’s punishment; it was to ensure members were making strides in creating a more positive sexual environment. The intent was “educative,” as Holloway put it. With no clear sense of how violations would be punished, however, the fraternity was given little motivation to follow the letter of their restrictions. They pushed its limits. “It is an us-against-them mentality with the administration,” the former brother said.

When contacted for further comment about the University’s dealing in this specific case, Holloway said in an email that he “simply cannot comment on this now that your story has taken this turn.”

Some fraternity members attempted to lead an internal push for reform in the wake of the sanctions, which roiled the fraternity despite their limited effect on day-to-day operations. Some of the brothers learned only in the fall that the president at the time of the spring initiation had told Zoe to keep her head down and ride out the rumors. His stance did not reflect the views of the fraternity as a whole; rather, other members condemned how he had handled the conversation with her, according a student who was an SAE brother at the time.

“The process is all about telling freshmen, ‘You’re worthless, you’re not good enough, you need to be re-fashioned, you’re not valuable.’”

—Former SAE brother

Some members of the fraternity met on Sept. 2 to discuss the events of initiation, how Zoe was treated thereafter and how it was unacceptable behavior. They saw SAE’s reputation for sexual misconduct as connected to their “demeaning” initiation process. “People did not understand that link,” the former brother said. “The process is all about telling freshmen, ‘You’re worthless, you’re not good enough, you need to be refashioned, you’re not valuable.’ It’s just a trial, an ordeal.” New members internalize those dehumanizing experiences and project them outward in other social contexts, including how they treat women, the brother argued.

Certain brothers petitioned to eliminate certain traditions, but they were unsuccessful due to significant resistance from senior members, several brothers said. An email from a brother outlining changes was initially met with approval before it encountered stiff opposition from others, who demanded a meeting. Older members threatened to leave the fraternity if change came too quickly. A deal was struck: The tradition would take place once more but then never again.

Splintered among their ranks, SAE would face an arduous process of rebuilding.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES OF CONFIDENCE

Meeting with CCEs

In the activities room in Swing Space, Zoe spoke to the CCEs

Meanwhile, Zoe continued to push the administration to uphold, as well as to publicize, the terms of the sanctions against the fraternity. She corresponded with administrators on seven different email threads in the fall semester and met with University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler to address the aftermath of the hearing. In fact, it was only weeks after the hearing that Zoe suggested in a meeting with UWC chair David Post that SAE write an open letter to the student body apologizing for the incident of sexual misconduct.

But during the fall semester, administrators instead encouraged her to meet with Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs and the director of the Communication and Consent Educators, peer educators who runs workshops on sexual consent. As a result of conversations with Boyd, Zoe made a presentation to a group of CCEs explaining the process of filing a UWC complaint and describing the details of her story in confidence.

On Dec. 3, she pressed administrators to elaborate on their efforts to enforce the sanctions against SAE. “I strongly feel that my peers should know that the SAE suspension has been imposed, let alone what the fraternity members did to warrant such a punishment,” she wrote in an email to Post and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry.

She wrote again on Dec. 11, emphasizing a formal letter’s importance in informing the student body that the fraternity had been sanctioned for sexual misconduct. Post replied later that day: “We have not finalize [sic] the final wording but we will considered [sic] both a ‘violation of undergraduate regulations’ and ‘a violation of sexual misconduct policy’ … I understand your point of view and concerns but we have additional privacy concerns we have to balance.”

In further emails, administrators promised to send the letter at the beginning of the spring semester. It was on Feb. 13, 2015, that Holloway finally addressed the Yale community in an email, prefacing a letter of apology signed by “The Brothers of SAE.” A full year had passed since the SAE initiation event. Zoe had no advance warning and was shocked to find the letter in her email inbox when she awoke that morning.

Post offered this explanation of the decision to send a campuswide email: “At times, when the sanctions in a particular case affect the way that an individual or organization interacts with the community, the University may share information about those sanctions with the affected community.”

He added in reference to the revelation of details of a UWC case, “I am deeply disturbed by this breach of confidentiality. Confidentiality protects the parties and the process. Publishing the details of cases discourages reliance on the UWC and undermines the ability of the UWC to provide a fair and thorough review of very serious matters.”

Holloway’s campuswide email marked the first time the University had brought public attention to the case. The account included sparse information, as dictated by the University’s confidentiality requirement for UWC proceedings. According to the UWC’s statement on confidentiality, “The purpose of confidentiality is to encourage parties and witnesses to participate in UWC proceedings and share all the information they have to offer, which is essential to reaching a fair outcome.”

The message described the event as “a presentation that was found to be in violation of the University’s policy on sexual misconduct” and revealed that members had made “attempts to impede the investigation.” The brothers outlined their reform efforts: They had adjusted their new member initiation process to “more clearly reflect the values of our organization” and had initiated meetings with the CCEs. The brothers had received professional guidance on “promoting good citizenship and creating a more positive sexual climate.” They had used chapter funds to send three officers to national leadership training last fall. Finally, they had met with an institutional psychologist who emphasized culture change.

“We believe we have made significant progress in this area,” the brothers said in the statement emailed to the News.

Holloway wrote to the college regarding SAE's sanctions on Feb. 13, 2015

The Yale Women’s Center praised the decision to notify the student body but questioned the underlying logic of confidentiality as applied to SAE, “not an individual but an influential organization,” according to a statement provided to the News in February.

Able to impart only a few details, the email appeared strong-handed against sexual misconduct while suggesting that the fraternity had learned its lesson. The perception in some corners of the media was that the University had been forceful, indeed perhaps unduly so, in reaction to the misdeeds.

“Total Frat Move,” a humor site catering to Greek life audiences nationwide, published a story with the headline: “Yale Just Dicked Its SAE Chapter Because Of Comments Made A Year Ago By Graduated Members.” The story, quoting SAE national officials who expressed shock that Yale would punish the entire fraternity for the actions of the few who made “nothing but a few ‘inappropriate comments,’” argued that “Collegeaged males are comprised of alcohol and a ravenous sexual appetite. What the fuck do universities think these guys are going to discuss?”

Rather than bringing attention to the issue of sexual misconduct, the administration appeared to come down hard on a couple of bantering boys. Confidentiality protected the identities of the individuals involved, but it hindered the administration in providing a timely and accurate portrayal of what happened as a means of educating the Yale community, Zoe said.

Zoe also felt that the fraternity had not upheld its end of the confidentiality agreement. The more than 50 members who had attended initiation were free to circulate rumors about what had happened, she said. Meanwhile, she was silenced by UWC confidentiality, unable to clarify the truth. She compared her case to SAE’s racist chants at the University of Oklahoma last month.

“How would the University have reacted if this event had been caught on tape and released on the Internet?” she asked.

 

This photograph captures the backyard of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on April 26, 2014, during a party on the day of Spring Fling. It does not depict events specifically described in the text of this story. This image was captured before the University sanctioned the fraternity as a result of the case outlined in this story. (Provided to the Yale Daily News)

THE AFTERMATH

Zoe has struggled to move on, but so has the fraternity. Since the sanctions, the brothers of SAE have renewed their focus on ensuring that fraternity members conduct themselves with respect in all interactions, they said. “We recognize that the incident last spring was wrong, and we sincerely apologize,” they wrote in an email. “We want SAE to be a positive social outlet and a safe place for everyone. We do not believe that productive conversations addressing last spring’s incident hinder progress. We are trying to move on and improve, making sure no similar incidents arise in the future.”

Nevertheless, the UWC case has come to define Zoe’s years at Yale. After the UWC case concluded, her parents raised the possibility of her transferring to another university for junior year. They knew the toll the case and its aftermath had taken on her and wanted her to get a fresh start. She rejected the idea — she wanted to see her education through.

This spring, the last of the SAE brothers found responsible in the UWC case will graduate. But Zoe still has senior year ahead of her. The case will continue to affect her in ways large and small. In the library or around a seminar table, she wonders who has heard the nastier strains of the rumors.

“This entire thing has forever changed the way I interact with the student body,” she said.

 

 

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