Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Three female Yale students filed a lawsuit against the university and nine of its fraternities Tuesday, seeking to force fraternities to accept women as members.
Students Anna McNeil, Ellie Singer and Ry Walker filed the lawsuit stating that "'separate but equal' Greek life" at Yale reinforces gender norms, stereotypes and prejudices. They asked the court to award damages and order changes in policy such as "fully integrating women" in Yale fraternities.
"Simply put, fraternities elevate men to social gatekeepers and relegate women and non-binary students to sexual objects," the lawsuit states. "Moreover, Yale's fraternities have alumni and professional connections to the business world, including banking and consulting firms, which often result in coveted job offers and economic opportunities."
Additionally, they stated men at Yale fraternities "deny female students admission to parties based on their appearance, verbally harass them, grind against them, grab them, and grope them."
All three women told CBS News they had been sexually harassed at fraternity parties, including being grinded on, groped from behind and an instance in which Walker said someone pulled up her skirt.
Joan Gilbride, a lawyer representing the fraternities named in the lawsuit, said the accusations in the suit are "baseless and unfounded" and the fraternities as well as their larger national organizations would defend against them.
Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy, told the New York Times he could not immediately comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but opposed aspects of fraternity culture described in a yearlong review of Yale's overall campus culture.
"I condemn the culture described in these accounts; it runs counter to our community's values of making everyone feel welcome, respected, and safe," Conroy said. "I also offer some plain advice about events like these: don't go to them."
Speaking for the group, McNeil said that fraternity parties weren't "any of our first choice" for campus activities, but said such parties were "kind of the only choice for the first couple of months at school."
Walker agreed, adding the lack of similar social options was at the center of the culture issue.
"It speaks to the way that fraternities dominate the social culture at Yale," she said. "Those are the places that are open late at night. And those are the spaces that some of our friends are hosting parties in."
Singer added that fraternities offer "a vast network of privileges to their members," that aren't matched by those presented by sororities.
"Sororities don't tend to have nearly the same connections as fraternities. Fraternities often have people, I think, in higher positions of power. And certainly on campus, they occupy a much higher social space," she said.
Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said the university "plays no formal role in the organizations not affiliated with the university, including Greek organizations" and is working to provide alternative campus events and social spaces.
The suit states that Yale and the fraternities have a "symbiotic" relationship, in which the fraternities manage social life on campus, in exchange for Yale officials not taking action against conduct at their parties.
"The fraternities take on the liability associated with student alcohol consumption, and in exchange, Yale allows the fraternities to use Yale resources (and recruit Yale students) and largely turns a blind eye to the sexual harassment and assault occurring in connection with the fraternities," it states.
McNeil said the idea of banning fraternities would be "counter to our objectives" and Singer said the desired result of the lawsuit is a "paradigm shift."
"Right now, students are forced to make a choice between having a social life and not feeling safe at parties or feeling safe but barely being able to go out at all. We want Yale to take decisive action to make that change so people no longer are forced to make that choice," Singer said.