On Sunday the 19th, nearly 300 students gathered at UMass Amherst to protest on the lawn of the Theta Chi fraternity house, and on Wednesday, September 22nd, nearly 100 students gathered to share their stories and hold the campus accountable for what is viewed as a culture that permits rape, harassment and promotes secrecy on campus. Students are demanding action over allegations of sexual assault anonymously leveled toward the fraternity Theta Chi. Recently these protests have resulted in shattered windows and a flipped car.
Benjamin Rozak, the student president of the local chapter was seen on his Snapchat story dancing with other fraternity members accompanied by captions seeming to reference the allegations and the protests. Captions such as “sweet”, “daddy’s money”, and “allegations” appeared in his story. At the time of writing, 25,230 people have signed a change.org petition to suspend/disband Theta Chi and the number only seems to be growing. The following poster has been passed along on the UMass Amherst Reddit page, originally posted by user Sailor_Spaghetti.
On September 20th. UMass Amherst’s Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy sent an email to students, here are some excerpts.
“ Let me be unequivocally clear, we condemn sexual violence of any kind and are committed to providing robust support services to survivors and to vigorously investigating all allegations of sexual assault.” At this point, no survivor or witness has come forward to file a complaint or a report substantiating the claims that have been made on various social media platforms. While we respect and support a survivor’s decision whether or not to report an assault or pursue sanctions, we cannot take action against alleged perpetrators, whether they be individuals or organizations, without actionable evidence.”
Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan one Wednesday urged people to report cases to authorities and emphasized how seriously they were taking the allegations of sexual assault at UMass Amherst after students protested outside the Theta Chi fraternity. The DA issued the following statement. “However, it cannot be overstated how seriously the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office takes allegations of sexual assault, and how vigorously it investigates and prosecutes such cases,” the office said in a statement Wednesday.
On Wednesday the DA said that each survivor is given a specially-trained victim witness advocate from the office to assist them through the process, and if the evidence gathered is able to lead to criminal charges the DA will prosecute. “The last thing in the world we want is for victims of sexual assault to feel they have no place safe to go for recourse,” Sullivan said. “Prosecutors and victim witness advocates in our office have extensive training to help us all better understand the unique needs of, and therefore better respond to, survivors of sexual assault. We are deeply committed to employing a trauma-informed approach and ensuring victims are heard throughout the process.”
On Campus here at BSU, many people are involved in Greek Life. “The news with UMass Amherst is heartbreaking, as no individual should ever have to deal with incidents of sexual violence. The BSU Fraternity & Sorority Life community strongly believes in supporting survivors, and empowering members of the community to report incidents of sexual violence if survivors feel comfortable doing so.” Says Victoria Field, the Coordinator for Student Organizations and Fraternity & Sorority Life. She continued to state, “At BSU we strongly instill that once you are a member of a fraternity or sorority, you now represent more than just yourself, and more specifically you now represent every single individual who is a member of a Greek-lettered organization (whether good or bad). We are proud to have our organizations co-sponsor the Take Back the Night walk with the SVAS center every year, while additionally Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority and Sigma Pi host the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes all in support of survivors and educating our community on reporting processes, support for survivors, and educating our community on consent.”
If one thing is clear at UMass Amherst, it’s that students are demanding change, and they are demanding it now.