Yale classmates remember very different images of Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh's time at Georgetown Prep, a private high school in the Washington suburbs, and Yale, the Iv...

Posted: Sep 27, 2018 8:36 AM
Updated: Sep 27, 2018 8:36 AM

Brett Kavanaugh's time at Georgetown Prep, a private high school in the Washington suburbs, and Yale, the Ivy League college where Kavanaugh attended both undergraduate and law school, have cast the shadow over his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Over the weekend Deborah Ramirez alleged in The New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm room party during their freshman year in college, an allegation Kavanaugh has vehemently denied. But, with just days until he could be confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh's time at Yale, the groups he joined there and the people he knew have all come under renewed scrutiny.

Brett Kavanaugh

Christine Blasey Ford

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Deborah Ramirez

Education

Education systems and institutions

Fraternities and sororities

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

Higher education

James Roche

Misc organizations

Misc people

Political Figures - US

Politics

Sex crimes

Sexual assault

Sexual misconduct

Society

Student organizations

US Congress

US Senate

In recent days, supporters of both Kavanaugh and Ramirez have come forward to tell stories of two very different people who came from disparate worlds: Kavanaugh from the world of privilege and private schools. Ramirez from a more humble upbringing that required her to work at the Yale dining halls while in school, according to former colleague and 1988 Yale graduate Jo Miller.

More than a dozen interviews with people who attended Yale during the mid-1980s, when Kavanaugh and Ramirez were students there, paint a complex -- even contradictory -- picture of who Kavanaugh was at the time: a young man from an elite prep school in Maryland who was considered a jock, belonged to one of the school's secret senior societies, Truth and Courage, as well as a fraternity -- Delta Kappa Epsilon -- known at times for antics on campus including one it became famous for: marching across campus with a flag made of women's undergarments. In a photo the Yale Daily News republished last week, two men can be seen hoisting the underwear flag. The caption at the time according to the paper was "DKE at play."

"DKE had a hard-drinking reputation," recalled John Hechinger, a 1988 Yale graduate and author of a book about fraternities, "True Gentlemen." "It was more attractive to conservatives with traditional views on masculinity and femininity."

Hechinger didn't know Kavanaugh personally, but said that in the 1980s at Yale, DKE was one of the few fraternities and was considered an outlier on the school's campus, a vestige of the "old establishment" culture known for heavy drinking and the flag underwear incident.

Another woman who graduated Yale in 1987 who also did not know Kavanaugh personally said "DKE was regarded as disreputable," "widely regarded as drunks and jocks. Joining a fraternity like that was at the time, a way of saying no to Yale's overall culture."

But others charge the criticisms of DKE at that time have been too harsh.

Christopher Munnelly who was a few years behind Kavanaugh and graduated in 1990, challenged the notion that DKE was a magnet for out-of-control partying. At the time, Munnelly said that DKE did not even have a fraternity house and that their official meetings would occur in the common rooms of residential buildings where alcohol wasn't permitted.

"You can't have animal house without a house," he said. "The notion that [Kavanaugh] was part of a party fraternity is not the case."

Munnelly got to know Kavanaugh when he was a freshman pledge. He recalled Kavanaugh being kind and outgoing to the younger pledges despite the divides that sometimes exist between lower and upperclassmen in fraternities.

"He was a listener, introspective," Munnelly said, adding Kavanaugh, "didn't wear his ambition on his sleeve."

Munnelly recalled pledge week or "hell week," as he referred to it, as a collection of silly pranks, but nothing dubious, recounting how one pledge had to carry around a pole vault for a week or how older brothers would have pledges measure campus buildings with pencils. But when it came to Kavanaugh, Munnelly said he never remembered anything remotely controversial.

James Roche, Kavanaugh's roommate in the Fall 1983, also issued a statement saying that Kavanaugh was a "notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time."

"(H)e became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk," Roche said.

One classmate who attended many of the same parties as Brett Kavanaugh but did not want to be identified, says he was "aggressive, obnoxious drunk, part of the crowd he hung out with."

Roche added that he became close friends with Ramirez in the early days at Yale and while he "did not observe the specific incident in question," he did remember "Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk."

"Based on my time with Debbie, I believe her to be unusually honest and straightforward and I cannot imagine her making this up," Roche said. "Based on my time with Brett, I believe that he and his social circle were capable of the actions that Debbie described."

Ramirez was known as friendly, but as Roche recalled, someone who was "very worried about fitting in."

"She felt that everyone at Yale was very rich, very smart and very sophisticated and that as a Puerto Rican woman from a less privileged background, she was an outsider."

Others also described Ramirez as an honest, humble person, someone who was outgoing and friendly.

"There is no reason in the world why she would come forward if this wasn't true," said Julie Heller, who graduated from Yale in 1988 and sometimes attended parties with Ramirez. "She was social, but not particularly rowdy. I wouldn't say she was a huge partier."

At the time, female alumna of Yale's 1987 class have said, it would have been hard for Ramirez to even know who to talk to about that kind of allegation. They pointed out that the institutional attitudes towards the kind of assault that Ramirez alleges have changed dramatically since their time at the university.

"I don't know how Yale would have handled it all," said an acquaintance of Ramirez from Pierson College.

Minouche Kandel, a former resident of Ezra Stiles College in college when Kavanaugh was there, said that "there was just not the same infrastructure" for reporting sexual assault that exists today.

"Very likely if something like that happened you wouldn't report it to the university, you may tell a friend," she said. "It wouldn't have even occurred to me to say something."

Friends of Kavanaugh's meanwhile have struggled in recent days to square the person they knew with the allegations against him, allegations they say they never heard of at the time.

Dwayne Oxley, who lived on the same floor as Kavanaugh for a few years in Ezra Stiles College, said he's "sympathetic" to Ramirez, but "it's just not who I knew as Brett Kavanaugh." He said like a lot of students at the time, Kavanaugh might have drank, but "I never saw him in a state where he wasn't in control."

The varying classmate recollections of Kavanaugh's time at Yale speak to what has become a larger struggle for the Senate's Judiciary Committee as it prepares to hear testimony from Christine Blasey Ford who alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in the Washington, DC, suburbs when they were teenagers in high school -- another accusation Kavanaugh strongly denies.

For some senators, Kavanaugh's own freshman roommate saying he was "belligerent" when drunk was disqualifying.

"The fact that his college roommate said he came home drunk and belligerent, I find credible and I find it is corroborating evidence of the claims by Ms. Ramirez and Dr. Ford," said New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican who has been vocal about his desire to see Ford testify, said that he has no way of sifting through memories of classmates from Yale or otherwise. For him, the story of who Brett Kavanaugh was will have to come from two people testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday: Ford and Kavanaugh himself.

"I have cleared my schedule tomorrow. I plan on watching the hearing from beginning to finish and that will be the testimony we will have to make decisions. I haven't talked to any classmates. I don't really have any ability to do so," Corker said, adding that he believes the majority staff is following up on any potential leads about Kavanaugh's background.

Chris Dudley, a fraternity brother who graduated in 1987 with Kavanaugh and eventually ran for governor of Oregon as the Republican nominee, said he got to know Kavanaugh on the basketball court where Kavanaugh played JV. Dudley has stayed close to Kavanaugh, sending him a text message in recent days to hang in there as Kavanaugh fought against allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

He was "just a great guy to be around," Dudley said, adding that he never saw Kavanaugh get aggressive when he consumed alcohol.

"He wasn't that type of person," Dudley remembered.

One woman who was a resident in Kavanaugh's college at Ezra Stiles and who said she knew Kavanaugh very well and often shared meals with him, said the allegation from Ramirez that had surfaced against Kavanaugh was "shocking" and "I don't believe it for a minute."

"I never saw that behavior from Brett anytime in the entire period I knew him," she said. "There was definitely silliness by some people around us at that time, but not from Brett Kavanaugh. I never saw that , never saw him doing anything like that."

Programming note: Watch CNN's full coverage of Thursday's Kavanaugh-Ford hearing beginning at 8:30 AM ET at CNN.com/go on your desktop, smartphone, and tablet, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and Android TV -- no log in required.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Few Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 78°
Mason City
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Austin
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 79°
Charles City
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Image

Getting Your Fair Food Fix During the Pandemic

Community Events