Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin
Women at Yale University use a variety of underground communication — including"whisper networks" and anonymous Google Docs — to protect themselves from men they say have engaged in sexual harassment or assault.
"There is such a large whisper network on campus, men on campus who have been flagged," a female student at Yale, who requested anonymity, told Business Insider. "It's all very much an open secret."
These names are shared by word-of-mouth networks to inform students of men who women say are sexually unsafe.
"It's well known on campus that there are certain people who are sexually aggressive, and that information is conveyed through informal channels of communication, particularly among women," Helen Price, a senior at Yale, told Business Insider.
Price cofounded the student group Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale. She said networks formed because of students' lack of trust in Yale to protect them from assailants.
"Students don't have faith in [Yale's] disciplinary system to adjudicate fairly and give out justice and appropriate punishments," she said.
Sororities at Yale have developed whisper networks by collecting information in anonymous Google forms. Yale University / Michael Marsland
There's no apparent pattern for sexual-misconduct punishment at Yale, based on public reports reviewed by Business Insider. When the school finds sufficient evidence of nonconsensual sex, consequences vary. Business Insider found 15 cases where Yale issued a finding of "penetration without consent," "nonconsensual sex," or "intercourse without consent." Yale has issued five expulsions. The 10 other instances received suspension, probation, or a written reprimand.
Sororities at Yale have further developed these whisper networks through a formalized process for collecting information. They use anonymous Google forms to compile the names of men who women say are dangerous, and then prohibit them from attending certain social events.
"If there is a person you would feel unsafe having at formal, please utilize the Anonymous Feedback form," an October 2017 email to Kappa Alpha Theta sorority members read. "Please use this form seriously and submit it by end of the day Saturday."
The women of Theta submitted the names of people they believed had engaged in sexual harassment or assault, a Theta sorority sister told Business Insider. Later, executive members of the sorority reviewed the anonymous Google form and barred listed men from the party. Other Yale sororities, including Pi Phi and Alpha Phi, use a similar whisper-network strategy, according to members of each group.
Sororities see themselves as powerful agents of change at Yale. AP File Photo/Bob Child
Some women say they fear being ostracized as one reason the information-sharing networks stay underground.
Price, for example, said she lost a bid into a secret society because of her work raising awareness about alleged assailants at Yale.
Still, sorority members see themselves as powerful agents of change at Yale. They leverage their social capital to make men shape up.
"Fraternities respond much more quickly to pressure from sororities than they do to pressure from Yale," a sorority sister in Pi Phi told Business Insider.
She pointed to a sorority-wide blacklist of Leo, another Yale fraternity after Leo was accused of hosting a "white girls only" Halloween party in 2015. Leo denied the accusations. The university found no evidence of systematic discrimination. Following the accusation, Leo adopted some new rules.
"Leo has made so many institutional changes," she said. She believes this is "because they are desperate for the sororities to mix with them."
"They hire external bouncers, they have a formalized line at the door, they have water available at every party, they have sober monitors, and they have offered to meet with every sorority president to discuss safety and what they can do."