Lawsuit Filed Against Psi U

Read on for several community responses, including from Students for Consent and Communication and from President Roth.

From Wikipedia Commons. Where else?

A student filed a lawsuit against Psi Upsilon, the Wesleyan Xi Chapter, and several Psi U members on Tuesday. The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants regarding a sexual assault perpetrated last spring against the student in the Psi U common room. This lawsuit does not name Wesleyan University itself as a defendant, unlike the previous lawsuit against a Wesleyan fraternity regarding a sexual assault. Instead, the lawsuit states that Psi U and its members violated its contract with Wesleyan which requires the fraternity to manage its events and keep its guests safe.

Wesleyan has, however, emailed all of us an official statement just this afternoon. President Roth’s email notes that the perpetrator of this particular sexual assault was dismissed from the University after disciplinary proceedings, in addition to sanctions against Psi U. President Roth’s statement in full: 

Dear friends,

Late last night we learned that a survivor of a sexual assault had filed a lawsuit against the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Wesleyan and its national organization. We have not spoken publicly about this matter out of concern for the survivor’s privacy. Now that civil proceedings have commenced, on behalf of the university community, I want to express our horror at this shameful assault. Sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus. Our internal investigation of the incident, which took place last spring at an event held in violation of university regulations, led to the perpetrator’s dismissal from the university and sanctions against the fraternity and individual members of it.

At Wesleyan there are three residential fraternities. Their buildings, housing a total of 67 students, are owned by their respective organizations. While these fraternities have had some autonomy, all have seen increased scrutiny over the past few years.  We intend to focus our attention on improving the safety of these spaces. There is already a Title IX Task Force led by the Board of Trustees in coordination with our Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion, which is working to ensure gender equity throughout the Wesleyan educational experience. In addition, we will be gathering information to present to the Board as it considers what role, if any, residential fraternities will have on our campus in the future.

Sexual assaults on college campuses are not, of course, only a fraternity issue. This is a national problem, and it’s important to raise awareness about these heinous crimes. I look forward to working together with all campus constituencies to continue to improve our ability to care for survivors, vigorously pursue perpetrators, and create a positive campus climate in which sexual violence has no place.

Michael S. Roth
President

All of this comes amidst much conversation around the role of fraternities on campus. Last month, The Atlantic published a cover article on the power fraternities and the problems they often cause—including Wesleyan’s own Beta Theta Pi, which was the subject of the full back third of the article. Earlier this week, alum Zach Schonfeld ’13 published an article in Newsweek about those few Wesleyan-like colleges and universities that have fully eliminated fraternities from their campuses.

Within the Wesleyan Twitter-verse, conversations are a-flyin’ around the relative benefits and costs of fraternities at Wesleyan. Most look something like this:

Twitter

As President Roth notes, Wes has three residential fraternities (in the strict sense of the word) among a larger host of Greek organizations: DKE, Psi U, and Beta. These three don’t really lack for members or pledges, and plenty of folks attend their parties. Some of the frats have even taken considerable steps to combat these issues, including extensive bystander training, something the Inter-Greek Council is considering as a requirement for all Greek pledges. But, still, even though frats aren’t the only place incidents like this one are perpetrated, they do come up at frats far too frequently, despite across-the-board under-reporting…

Let’s keep the community conversation going. What do you think about Wesleyan’s Greek life? Sound off in the comments.

***

[Edit pyrotechnics 4:00PM: Below is a public response from the Presidents of Students for Consent and Communication, wholly separate from this article; in email correspondence, expressed a wish to “emphasize that they believe that this conversation should be about more than just fraternities and should revolve around sexual assault as a whole on this campus.” I’ve posted their letter here simply to keep everything in one place. Please read it.]

In response to the recent dialogue over the lawsuit and the larger ongoing conversation about Sexual Assault on our campus and beyond, the Students for Consent and Communication (SFCC) want to make ourselves available to you, our fellow students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members, as a resource and a partner in combating sexual violence.

Sexual Assault happens to people of all genders, sexual orientations, ability, ethnicities, and races. It happens all over campus: not just in Greek Houses. We, the SFCC, want the campus to know that we support survivors, we support people working on this issue, we support change, we support the administration making changes to its current policy, we support the work of the Sexual Assault Response Team, we support students trying to change their attitudes toward violence on campus, but most of all we support action to stop this horrible epidemic of violence.

We have been working for several years as an independent student group in conjunction with the University and other interested parties to address specific policy concerns and make positive changes. In addition to several programs we have put on this year, we are also looking forward to meeting with President Roth in the coming weeks regarding our specific concerns. We want to offer ourselves as a resource to the community as a whole. We stand for action and change and we invite you to stand with us. There are simple ways you can end rape culture at Wesleyan and in the world:

  1. Call people out when they propagate rape culture (i.e. I raped that test; ze deserved it)
  2. Take time to read and review sexual assault reporting protocol at Wesleyan so that you can help a friend and refer hir to the right resources.
  3. Attend a Bystander intervention Training or Consent workshop to learn more about the issues on campus and how you can help
  4. Support survivors of sexual violence by remembering that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault
  5. Pledge to be an active bystander and intervene when you see something wrong
  6. Keep the dialogue going and talk to your friends about what is happening on campus

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while it is important to note the significance of this month it is also worth noting that our campus should support survivors and stand for action all year round. In honor of the month we do have several events planned. The largest and most significant event is Take Back the Night (TBTN), which is a global movement to end sexual violence. This year our event seeks to incorporate more voices and more ideas. This year’s event will take place on Thursday April 24th, please consider coming out and showing your support for survivors. We are preparing to meet with the administration about the University’s Sexual Assault policy, and if you or your organization wants to voice any concerns, please fill out this form and we can share your thoughts during our meeting. If you want to join the conversation about sexual violence please feel free to attend one our weekly meetings and if you have suggestions, comments, or want to learn how you or your organization can get involved please email us.

Signed,

Nina Gurak ‘16 and Caillin Puente ‘15
Students For Consent and Communication Presidents
ngurak[at]wesleyan[dot]edu  cpuente[at]wesleyan[dot]edu

  • Fugazi

    Does it not bother anybody that the University was sitting on this information for 10 months before news of the assault had occurred? I’m all for respecting the survivor’s privacy, absolutely, but can nothing be said so that students are aware of they fact that where they’re partying or at the very least, congregating, there is a recent history of sexual assault? I would want to know if the street I’m moving on has a lot of B&E’s, and likewise I would want to know if in a certain frat there have been recent assaults. Just saying. Also, can we just cut to the chase, please? Frats, fraternities, whatever you want to call them, provide a setting, oftentimes booze, and a lot the culture that can make the chance of a sexual assault occurring really increase. Judas, DKE has the “stoplight party” for crying out loud, if there was ever a better representation of the exact mentality that all fraternity members currently posting here are all denying to be a part of. Until Wes comes to realize that we’re endangering the many for the four years worth of fond memories of 67 fraternity members, sexual assault will remain a byproduct of keeping keeping the fraternities physically a part of campus.

  • Alum

    Sexual assault is horrific and inexcusable. Sexual assault at fraternities is horrific and inexcusable. However, given the data in Wesleying’s “Shock and Awe” article last year (http://wesleying.org/2013/02/12/shock-and-awe/), sexual assault is happening elsewhere on campus with much greater frequency.

    Sexual assault at Wesleyan needs to be eliminated. Sexual assault as fraternities needs to be eliminated. Fraternities as Wesleyan do not need to be eliminated.

    • pyrotechnics

      The “Shock and Awe” data you reference makes no mention of where these under-reported assaults take place. Sexual assault is under-reported regardless of whether the assault took place in a frat or anywhere else.

      So, without taking any stance on the overall gist of your comment, I’d like to point out that you have no proof whatsoever to back the claim that “sexual assault is happening elsewhere on campus with much greater frequency.”

  • ’14

    I think what has been overlooked in the original Atlantic piece is that the article made more arguments against fraternity houses then against fraternities (or sororities) themselves. There is little the University can do to stop a group of individuals from forming a group and doing things together (provided those activities are legal/within university policy), what it can do is deprive these institutions of the spaces where they are able to exercise their economic and gender privilege with relative impunity and the greatest degree of intensity. Those who argue that sexual assault is an epidemic that is not limited to fraternities are absolutely correct, but fraternity houses worsen the problem by constituting spaces where university oversight is weaker and where sexist norms can exist without the critical interrogation necessitated by a situation in which people of all gender identities live together and interact. Fraternity houses are spaces where individuals, if they choose, can evade the humanity of those they see as sexual objects with greater success then people can in housing that is open to all genders and where policy demands critical engagement and self-criticism. In my personal opinion, the policy proposal that makes the most sense on a pragmatic level and in terms of making our campus safe for all bodies is to deprive these organizations of their houses. If individuals want to form organizations on campus (i.e. Rho Ep or AEPi) that is their prerogative, but the university should not afford them their own spaces in which their privilege can be exercised to its fullest, often with awful effects

    • J.D. Shatz ’14

      The problem is that these spaces are owned by national chapters, not the University. The University has bought several spaces – 200 Church and the Bayit were once fraternities, as was Malcolm X House. The Romance Languages building was once a frat, but it was renovated.
      These are beautiful spaces and offer many resources – study lounges, pianos, pool tables, spaces to hold concerts and gatherings. What do you think should be done with those spaces if the University takes control from national chapters?

  • Alum ’10

    It’s great that there are a few brave souls who will speak up for some of the only remaining all-rich, mostly white, all male social clubs in America! I think it was Martin Niemoller who said – “first they came for the bros, but they couldn’t find them because all the bros had already taken jobs at their fathers’ hedge funds and law firms…” Frats don’t need defenders, they need to be radically overhauled or done away with.

    • Frat bro is a derogatory term

      I am neither white or rich or part of a “frat” for that matter. I am however a brother in a fraternity, DKE. Why should all fraternities and all of their brothers be lumped into one group? Why should we not be defended? Not every fraternity is bad. Not every fraternity makes these destructive decisions. And not every brother in a fraternity supports the decisions of other brothers. You would not dismiss other groups in the same way that we are being dismissed. I am not saying that what happened was right and I in no way condone what happened but I will also not accept being judged and prosecuted for the mistakes of others. As a black man I’ve experienced this all too much and would not wish it upon any other group whether it be a fraternity, marching band, or LGBT group.

      • totally

        I agree. MEN’S RIGHTS!!!!! So upsetting that people are using the derogatory term “frat bro.” So offensive. Women should definitely stop oppressing men with their hateful words. Just like black people should stop oppressing white people. So much reverse racism and reverse sexism going unnoticed at this school.

        • you’ve gotta be kidding

          this better be a joke….

          • yeah

            it is.

          • ~

            The fact that this had to be asked and that it wasn’t assumed to be a joke IS KIND OF A PROBLEM

        • Alum ’12

          how sad and simplistic your views must be when someone, with simple elegance, points out the obvious fact that some of the people protesting loudest for pragmatism and rationality in campus housing policy are also being the most irrational and grouping in their logic. Instead of owning that fact and accepting criticism, as I am sure many well-meaning, proudly anti-sexually-hostile-spaces fraternity brothers have done in the past and particularly since this news broke, you assume the lowest form of debate and don’t even try to engage with his point, and just mock him. Shameful representation of debate at Wes.

      • 15

        No one is targeting you, or any frat bro personally. The point is, fraternities promote patriarchy and patriarchy promotes rape culture. Simple as that.

        • 14

          elite private education undeniably promotes economic stratification and economic stratification perpetuates itself. careful before feeling really righteous. the groups you belong to are implicated in oppression as well, 15.

          people find meaning in life by locating themselves within groups of other people/finding a sense of belonging/contributing and being a part of something larger than themselves, which is why I think this issue is so sticky. but i also think your right that even if not all fraternity brothers are white and rich the point of many (not all) is kinda to be an old boys club. I don’t know if it’s possible to change this aspect of “frat” culture without abolishing “frat” houses because it might be fundamental to the institution. But I also think your argument is simplistic. what about fraternities do you think inherently promotes patriarchy?