Last month, Yale University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon faced national scrutiny after the viral allegation it held a “white girls only” Halloween party.
SAE’s president temporarily left school due to the backlash and said he was spat on by a fellow Yale student.
Black members of SAE were reportedly taunted on campus with the epithet “Uncle Tom.”
Students rallied and raged behind SAE’s supposed racism as emblematic of larger problems of discrimination and injustice at Yale.
However, following an investigation into the Halloween allegation that involved interviewing SAE members and party guests, Yale University announced today in a school-wide email there was “no evidence of systematic discrimination against people of color.”
According to the Yale Daily News, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway shared the conclusion of the investigation, which was led by Burgwell Howard, the Dean of Student Engagement, along with a representative from the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs.
According to the Yale Daily News:
In his email, Holloway wrote that Howard’s investigation of SAE, which consisted of interviews with party guests and SAE members, found “no evidence of systematic discrimination against people of color.” Before the party became crowded, all students—including men and women of color—were admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Still, as the evening continued, Holloway said, the party became crowded and admission became “restricted” and “subjective,” with hosts using “harsh language” with students seeking entry, according to student reports. Two students provided administrators with credible accounts of overhearing, or being told by either one or two SAE members, that admission was for “white girls only.” But no one else interviewed by the administration reported hearing the statement, and SAE members interviewed during the investigation also denied the allegation, according to Holloway’s email.
The Yale Office for Public Affairs and Communication did not respond to any of The Daily Beast’s requests for commentary on the investigation nor questions about which or how many students were questioned.
The allegation that SAE had a “white girls only” admission policy at its Oct. 30 Halloween party traveled fast around the web after Yale sophomore Neema Githere posted the claim on Facebook Oct. 31:
“I’d just like to take a moment to give a shoutout to the member of Yale’s SAE chapter who turned away a group of girls from their party last night, explaining that admittance was on a ‘White Girls Only’ basis; and a belated shoutout to the SAE member who turned me and my friends away for the same reason last year. God Bless the USA”
She edited her post a few hours later to add:
“**If you think that I am lying, I urge you to read the comments below and see the ridiculousness that other students have experienced on this campus. If anyone reading this has experienced or witnessed a similar situation, PLEASE reach out/share your story below/ANYTHING.”
Within days, national news outlets were carrying Githere’s account, but a Daily Beast interview with her in early November raised questions about her claim.
Githere said that it wasn’t until a friend reminded her of an allegedly racist encounter at SAE the year before that she “realized the same thing happened to us.”
Githere added that “a lot of my memory is blurred because I was drunk.”
While she stated in her Facebook she was turned away, in the account she gave The Daily Beast, Githere said she and her friends left after one of her male friends became “belligerent” when he allegedly overheard SAE members say to each other there were too many black women. “We had to pull him away because we didn’t want to get in a fight.”
Githere did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on the investigation’s results.
Yale’s SAE chapter denied the allegation from the get-go. Last month, SAE president Grant Mueller told The Daily Beast that he was cooperating with the investigation and had also questioned his fraternity brothers.
Mueller told The Daily Beast today in an email that he knew Yale administrators were suspicious of the claim fairly early into their questioning.
“I found out very early on, maybe five days into the investigation, that the university had found pretty conclusive evidence that there was no discriminatory door policy,” Mueller said.
However, he heard the official conclusion around the same time it was shared with the Yale community.
“As for the results of the part of the investigation on whether or not the words were said, I found out just before the email was sent out. I spoke about them with Dean Holloway on the phone briefly before the email was released,” Mueller said.
“I feel relieved to have the third party investigation concluded and that due process has run its course.”
Anger over the “white girls only” SAE accusation coincided with a backlash against Yale lecturer Erika Christakis.
Christakis had sent an email to students in the dorm, Silliman College—which she oversees with her husband, Nicholas—criticizing the policing of Halloween costumes.
“Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended,” Christakis wrote. “Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society… Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.”
The two Halloween incidences unfortunately both validated and magnified Yale students’ outrage over perceived racial inequalities and injustices on campus.
Nicholas Christakis faced a mob of shouting and cursing students (which was caught on video). “Many student protesters called for the Christakises’ dismissal from Silliman,” reported The Washington Post.
The demonstrators succeeded, at least somewhat.
The New York Times reported Monday that Erika Christakis will resign from teaching and Nicholas Christakis will take a one-semester sabbatical. They will continue in their adminsitrative roles as house masters of Silliman College.
In November, Yale president Peter Salovey apologized to a group of minority students who called for the dismissal of the Christakises, according to a Washington Post report. While he didn’t promise to fire the pair, he appeared to fall on his sword.
“We failed you,” Salovey told them. “I think we have to be a better university. I think we have to do a better job.”