Wesleyan was not alone in clamping down on fraternities. In a widely reported controversy, Yale effectively disbanded Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) for parodic sexist chants made by pledges during an initiation ritual.
Last October, pledges were marched up to the Yale Women’s Center and instructed to shout such choice phrases as “No means yes. Yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I fuck dead women.”
Appropriately, the campus responded to this puerile exercise. Students organized a Forum on Yale’s Sexual Climate; the university president condemned DKE’s actions; the fraternity president voluntarily suspended pledge activities, and in a public letter said that the chants were “inappropriate, disrespectful . . . and in very poor taste.” Provocative speech did what it often does; it led to more speech and constructive dialogue.
Fast forward seven months. In May, Yale announced a five-year ban on DKE’s campus activities. Though Yale denies it, all indications point to political pressure resulting in censorship. The Department of Education, it turns out, had begun investigating Yale in late March, based on allegations that the campus was a sexually hostile environment. The frat-boy chants, the complaint alleged, typified this atmosphere. One cannot escape the strong suspicion that punishing DKE’s speech was a means to appease DOE investigators. In any event, the sanctions violate Yale’s official policy on free expression, which the university has long deemed its “primary obligation.”
By carving out the DKE exception, Yale also sent a pernicious — and patently false — message to its community: that its female students are incapable of surviving and responding to upsetting speech, and that therefore free-speech promises in Yale’s handbook must be sacrificed. For effectively destroying a fraternity chapter, overreacting to nonsense by censoring speech, and egregiously mollifying the federal government while patronizing Yale’s female students, the university administration wins a (repeat!) Muzzle.