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How Yale's Campus Is Reacting To Kavanaugh's Nomination And Allegations

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court has sparked protest among students from his alma mater Yale. Yale Law students were in Washington, D.C., today calling on senators to oppose the nomination. Students also staged a sit-in on the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn., where Kavanaugh has plenty of supporters as well. To find out more, we reached Hailey Fuchs and Britton O'Daly. They're with the Yale Daily News, and they wrote an article about Kavanaugh's undergraduate days at Yale - in particular, the fraternity he belonged to.

We should warn listeners that parts of this interview contain sexually explicit language.

HAILEY FUCHS: So Brett Kavanaugh was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity here on campus that both George Bushes were members of. And while Brett Kavanaugh was in Deke, there was an event in which pledges carried a flag full of bras and underwear and sort of waved it in front of the university president's office.

BRITTON O'DALY: Having interviewed members of Deke, or Delta Kappa Epsilon, from this time period, the basic theory I heard was that part of the pledge initiation process back in the '80s for Deke at Yale - at this time, Deke didn't even have a house. Fraternities were barely a presence at Yale, so they were really kind of on I think the outside fringe of the social sphere. But one of the initiation activities would be these scavenger hunts. And a few brothers from the '80s - while they didn't know exactly, their theory was that the pledges had to go around asking female students for their underwear or finding female underwear otherwise and then weave into this flag which they waved around campus.

CORNISH: In your reporting, did you find any actual connection to Judge Kavanaugh to any of this in his time on campus?

O'DALY: No, no, we never did. In fact, speaking to Deke brothers from the 1980s, what I would very, very frequently hear from them is that they always defended Kavanaugh. They said that he was more or less a Boy Scout when he was at Yale; he was very, very reserved and that they'd be very, very surprised if he ever participated in rush events like the one we reported on with the flag. I mean, that said, those are his own fraternity brothers. I don't think we've heard every single side of that story.

CORNISH: Can you talk a little bit about some of your thinking about why you wanted to investigate this? What is it about the culture of this group or the culture on campus that you guys are starting to explore more now that this issue is in the news?

O'DALY: I think for people outside the Yale community, what's important to know is that Deke as a group especially resonates with people on the campus right now because for the past year, we've done a lot of investigative reporting on sexual misconduct within the Deke organization. The former president of Deke just a few years ago was suspended for, quote, "penetration without consent" according to the Yale University Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

And after that, it led to a string of investigative reporting that revealed I think a far deeper institutional problem within Deke when it came to how female students existed in their space and sexual misconduct. So the second that people heard about Kavanaugh, there was a very, very rapid response on Yale student Facebook groups where people immediately commented on the fact that he had been a member of Deke back in the 1980s. It certainly resonated.

FUCHS: Yeah, and about five years ago, there was an incident in which Deke pledges were outside the Women's Center on campus and outside where the freshmen live, chanting no means yes; yes means anal.

CORNISH: Referring to anal sex, right?

O'DALY: Yes.

FUCHS: Yeah. And the fraternity was ultimately suspended for five years. And I've spoken to alums from the early '90s who said that in those days, Deke was well-known for being sort of a hotbed of sexual misconduct.

CORNISH: With the protests that are going on - we mentioned coming to Washington and also at the law school - do you know what exactly students are calling for or calling against? Like, what is the anger?

FUCHS: So I think when the nomination was first announced, I know there were hundreds of students who were calling for the law school to oppose Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. I think that now students are sort of still looking for accountability on behalf of the law school to, you know, levy its institutional power against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

CORNISH: Hailey Fuchs and Britton O'Daly - they are editors at the Yale Daily News. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

FUCHS: Thanks for having us.

O'DALY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.