Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin
Women at Yale use “whisper networks” and Google Docs to
share information about men they say engaged in sexual
harassment or assault.
Sororities collect the names of these men and bar them
from social events.
Women point to fears of social exclusion and a lack of
faith in Yale as some reasons these information-sharing
networks remain underground.
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
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.
There’s no apparent pattern for sexual-misconduct punishment at
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
“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.
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
Still, sorority members see themselves as powerful agents of
change at Yale. They leverage their social capital to make men
“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.”
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