Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia has voluntarily surrendered its Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University and suspended all chapter activities as an investigation into rape allegations unfolds.
About 700 people rallied at the University of Virginia Thursday, responding to a Rolling Stone Magazine report detailing charges of sexual assault at a prestigious UVA fraternity. Phi Kappa Psi has since closed its doors, called the incident intolerable and pledged full cooperation with a police investigation.
Less than 24 hours after Rolling Stone article reported claims of gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi about 700 people gathered on the UVA campus to protest. Sarah Jameel and a classmate who asked to remain anonymous said they wanted to make a point:
“We want to eventually get some real change. We should be able to feel safe with our fellow students.”
“I read the article last night and I was just like in tears. I know it goes on, but just reading it – it’s crazy, and you always think, ‘That could never happen to me,’ but honestly that could be your closest friend. That could be you. And why do you think it happens? Because we allow it – the school allows it. They don’t do anything about it, and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
For Professor Caroline Rudey, the rally was therapeutic.
“We all needed this event today, because many … or sleep since. 6 – It sickens us. It breaks our hearts, and we don’t want to remain silent about it anymore.”
Professor Jahan Ramazani blamed the board of visitors and university administrators for listening to wealthy, powerful people who wanted to protect fraternities, their members and the university’s reputation. He urged the crowd to be persistent in demanding change.
“We can’t let this issue disappear with the news cycle. We have to keep up the pressure for reform, and it might take a long time. These kind of changes don’t come easily. We have to fight! We have to fight! We have to fight together!”
Rally organizer Ahmad “Tar” Intesar, said this problem was not unique to UVA.
“Assaults and rape happen at universities across the nation, however the spotlight is on us now. What are we going to do about it?”
He called on the university to encourage reporting of sexual assaults, to assure thorough investigations and adequate punishments. He said student culture must change so victims no longer feel ashamed to say what’s happened, and he urged the university to stop worrying about its reputation.
“We love this university. Here at UVA we bleed orange and blue, but that being said, the reputation of this university does not trump the safety of female students or the student body in general.”
Afterward, Professor Allison Booth said it was time to act, but getting rid of fraternities was not the answer.
“I’ve taught at the university of Virginia for 28 years, and this has been an issue since I’ve been here, and that’s just not acceptable. I don’t think we can kick out the fraternities, because too many alumni belonged to them, and we depend on our donors. I mean I’m just being realistic.”
Phi Kappa Psi announced it was voluntarily shutting down after vandals broke windows and painted the house with graffiti that read, among other things, UVA Center for Rape Studies. An anonymous group claimed responsibility. It made several demands, including a new policy at UVA mandating immediate expulsion for sexual assault by students.
Another group, set up to raise money for rape victims to pursue cases in court, reported more than $12,000 in donations in less than a day, and Governor McAuliffe issued a statement saying he was deeply disturbed by the Rolling Stone report. He called on all universities in Virginia to take bold action and implement a zero tolerance policy for those who commit sexual assaults on campus.