Three female students are suing Yale and nine of its fraternities for allegedly enabling the Greek organizations to host events where sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination run rampant.
All three of the women, who are undergraduate students at the Ivy League school, say they have been groped without consent at Yale fraternity parties and have seen other women assaulted and harassed by fraternity members at events. One of the women also says in the lawsuit that fraternity brothers denied her entrance to a party because she is black.
The class-action lawsuit, filed by Anna McNeil, a 20-year-old junior; Eliana Singer, a 19-year-old sophomore; and Ry Walker, a 20-year-old junior, seeks unspecified damages. The plaintiffs also ask a federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, for a court order that would force fraternities at Yale to allow women and nonbinary students to become members.
“Many Yale students now accept and assume that female undergraduates risk sexual harassment and assault by attending fraternity events,” the lawsuit reads. “Fraternity brothers and other male attendees regularly deny female students admission to parties based on their appearance, verbally harass them, grind up against them, grab them and grope them.”
And with limited options for social gatherings at the university, the lawsuit claims that fraternities have “unrivaled influence over Yale’s social scene.”
According to the plaintiffs, Yale has failed to regulate fraternities and their events despite numerous allegations and instances of sexual assault and harassment, some of which are detailed in the lawsuit.
For example, according to the complaint, Walker was dancing at a party hosted by fraternity Zeta Psi in 2016 when a “large man” began grinding on her from behind, then lifted her skirt and grabbed her crotch.
“This sort of normalized groping is still groping, and it’s still sexual assault,” Walker told Reuters on Thursday.
The suit also claims that Walker was initially denied entry into a Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) party because she is black. However, the lawsuit notes that Walker was eventually allowed into the event.
Also included in the lawsuit are several references to past instances of harassment, including an incident in 2011 in which DKE pledge members appeared in video chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” The suit points out that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced an accusation of sexually assaulting a girl when he was in high school, is an alumnus of Yale’s DKE chapter.
Attorney Joan Gilbride, representing the fraternities in the lawsuit, told The New York Times that the women’s accusations are “baseless and unfounded.”
A spokesperson for Yale did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.
Todd Shelton, a spokesman for the North American Intrafraternity Conference, told Reuters that the lawsuit’s allegations shouldn’t define all fraternities.
“The stories are focusing on a small percentage compared to the hundreds of thousands of fraternity members and thousands of chapters out there,” Shelton told the news wire.
In a statement published online, attorney David Tracey, who is representing the plaintiffs, said, “Gender discrimination and sexual assault should have no place at Yale.
“Fraternities discriminate against women and are known sites of sexual harassment and assault,” Tracey, a Yale alumnus, added. “It is inconsistent for Yale to profess ideals of equality while permitting fraternities to thrive.”
The complaint accuses Yale of violating Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination at federally funded educational institutions, by failing to adequately prevent sexual misconduct occurring within the fraternities. It also claims that the university and its fraternities have violated the Fair Housing Act by offering male-only housing.