HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed nearly all claims in a lawsuit that sought to force all-male fraternities at Yale University to admit women, saying both fraternities and sororities are specifically excluded from a federal law that bans discrimination based on gender in education.
U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden in Bridgeport issued the ruling Jan. 30 in the lawsuit filed last year by three women who attend Yale. They sued nine fraternities and Yale in response to alleged sexual assault, harassment and discrimination at the all-male social organizations.
The judge allowed only one claim against Yale to continue forward toward trial: an allegation that school officials failed to act when informed by one of the plaintiffs that she and other women had been groped against their will at a fraternity party in 2016.
Bolden cited an exemption in the federal Title IX gender equality law in dismissing most of the lawsuit’s claims. The ruling came in response to motions to dismiss filed by Yale and the fraternities.
“The gender exclusive nature of the Fraternity Defendants is at the root of the Plaintiffs’ alleged hostile educational environment claim,” Bolden wrote in his ruling. “But … Congress has expressly limited Title IX and made the membership practices of the Fraternity Defendants beyond Title IX’s scope.”
Lawyers for the women have said they believe this was the first lawsuit by students against a university seeking to “gender integrate” fraternities.
Messages seeking comment were left with the three plaintiffs, Ry Walker, Anna McNeil and Eliana Singer. Their lawyer, David Tracey, said, “We are disappointed with the outcome of the motion to dismiss and we are currently evaluating our next steps.”
Yale officials do not comment on pending litigation, a school spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The North American Interfraternity Conference, a national advocacy group for fraternities, hailed the ruling as a victory for single-sex organizations.
“All students should have the right to join organizations, co-ed or single-sex, that enhance their collegiate experience and make positive contributions to the local community,” said Judson Horras, president and CEO of the advocacy group.
The lawsuit called for a sweeping court order banning fraternities from considering gender in admission decisions; fully integrating women in fraternity governance and alumni networks; and requiring Yale to prohibit student organizations — both on campus and off — from engaging in discrimination and harassment.
The three students also said women are being shut out of the social and economic benefits offered by all-male fraternities, including access to vast alumni networks that can help land coveted jobs. While there are sororities, their power and influence pales in comparison with fraternities, the lawsuit said.
The one remaining allegation in the case was made by McNeil. She claimed she reported to a Yale counselor that she and other women were groped against their will by “numerous male attendees” at a Zeta Psi party in August or September of 2016.
McNeil said the counselor shrugged off the claims and did not report the alleged misconduct to other school officials as required by Yale policies.
Singer and Walker also claimed they were sexually assaulted at fraternity parties. But Bolden said they didn’t allege in the lawsuit that they reported the incidents to Yale officials and Yale declined or refused to investigate.
The defendants included the local and national chapters of fraternities including Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Leo fraternity, Sigma Chi Theta Upsilon, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Zeta Psi.
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