Letters to the Editor

Letter: Phi Psi condemns sexual violence

By
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Brown community,

On Friday, the Brothers of Phi Kappa Psi, along with the rest of the Brown community, received an email from Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, and Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy. The email stated that “the Office of Student Life and the Department of Public Safety have received reports from two students that on Friday, October 17, 2014 they suspect that they were given alcoholic punch containing a date rape drug at a party at a fraternity in Sears House.” As we all quickly grasped, Phi Kappa Psi is the only fraternity in Sears House.

This news took us by complete surprise, triggering a variety of emotions. First and foremost, we were all shocked by the circumstances of the allegations. Sexual assault and the use of illegal date-rape drugs number among the most heinous of crimes. We are confident that in no way did any member of Phi Kappa Psi engage in or perpetrate such atrocious and criminal behavior. There have been no accusations or charges of sexual assault brought against any member of the fraternity, and no information has been shared regarding an investigation. To the extent of our understanding, Phi Kappa Psi has been suspended for hosting an unregistered event with alcohol present.

We, the Brothers of Phi Kappa Psi, would like to state that we in no way condone, allow or affiliate with the use of any manifestation of violence, especially gender-based and sexual violence, but rather universally and unequivocally condemn them and their use in anything related to our fraternity. As a Brotherhood, we are committed to ending these specific forms of violence in our communities, particularly the Greek community.

We would like to express our utmost sympathy and respect for the survivors of this reprehensible series of events, and our solidarity in combating these forms of violence on our campus. As distressing as these allegations are to us, we recognize that the personal stress and anxiety experienced by those survivors of assault dwarfs our own, and we hope to do as much as we can to ameliorate the difficulties of all parties moving forward.

We respect the University’s commitment to protecting our community and pledge to give our complete cooperation to the ongoing investigation. Additionally, we are working within the Greek community and with relevant administrators to develop more comprehensive policy regarding the prevention and handling of these crises. We desire to see justice done and do our best to ensure no other member of our community suffers in this way again.

Once again, if you were at the event or anyone you know of may have any clarifying information that would help expedite the investigation of this serious offense, please be sure to contact the Department of Public Safety, specifically Sgt. John Carvalho, at 401-863-3322.

Respectfully yours,

The Brothers of Phi Kappa Psi

  • family member

    It’s easy for Brown officials and fraternities to condemn sexual violence, but words are cheap.

    The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. So long as Brown refuses to adopt policies and procedures that treat all forms of violence against women as a civil rights harm, as Brown does with violence based on race, national origin, etc., their public condemnations of sexual violence will ring hollow.

    Condemning sexual violence while subjecting victims to second-class treatment on campus is like saying a little bit of rape is acceptable.

    If sexual violence were truly unacceptable at Brown, as they claim, the standards for responding would be exactly the same as the standards that apply to the redress of all other forms of targeted violence on campus. But they are much worse for women.

    If sexual violence were truly unacceptable at Brown, the response time for a decision regarding responsibility and punishment would be nearly immediate, as it is for other offenses, as when a student is caught with drugs.

    The oft-cited claim that sexual violence cases require months or years to resolve in order to protect the accused’s “due process” rights is belied by the fact that drug offenses are resolved in a matter of days and, according to Brown’s policies, are conducted in full compliance with “due process” for the accused even though the drugs are not lab-tested to determine whether they are, in fact, drugs. All forms of violence against women can and should be resolved just as quickly, with the possible exception of cases involving surreptitious drugging of the victim. Because rape drugs can prevent a victim from remembering aspects of an offense, and can cause mind/body separation such that a victim behaves in a manner inconsistent with what her mind wants her to do, it is important for Brown to facilitate a victim’s access to drug tests so they can determine whether drugs were used. And because rape drugs dissipate quickly in blood and urine, tests should be done on the victim’s hair, not blood or urine, because drugs remain in hair indefinitely, until it grows out. Attorney Wendy Murphy in Boston is the only lawyer in the nation who regularly helps campus victims obtain access to hair testing procedures.

    If Brown really wants to stop sexual violence, it should announce, as Harvard did, that all forms of violence against women will be redressed under standards exactly on par with standards used to redress other forms of violence on the basis of other protected class categories such as race and national origin.

    • B17

      Except drugs are physical…there may not be physical evidence of rape. Also Wendy Murphy is also the lawyer who continued to call for the crucifixion of the Duke lacrosse team long after their innocence was obvious. Not exactly a role model.

      • Imogen Darby

        So fine. That’s a start: physical evidence of illegal drugs. The point is that it is possible to test for it. See the data yourself. You do not need somebody else’s interpretation of the data. (Gosh! Do you really go to Brown?)

        • B15

          You didn’t really address B17’s concern except with an ethos attack.

    • Robert Riversong

      1) Women are hardly an oppressed minority, and so deserve no more paternalistic protection than any other citizen.

      2) What you are advocating is the abandonment of any shred of due process, kangaroo courts, and an assumption of guilt for anyone (i.e. any man) merely accused of sexual assault.

      You note the new Harvard policy as an exemplar, but fail to note that 28 Harvard law professors, including former federal judge and life-long feminist activist Nancy Gertner, wrote a scathing open letter last year about the sacrifice of due process.

      See: Sexual Assault and Justice: Can we reconcile the belated attention to rape on campus with due process? by Nancy Gertner, feminist lawyer, retired federal judge and Harvard Law professor

  • 15.5er

    you say you express “[your]solidarity in combating these forms of violence on our campus.” What specifically are you planning to do? Hosting mandatory workshops on rape culture? Having sober people at parties? Actions speak louder than words.

    • Greek Alum

      “Having sober people at parties?”

      This is already a requirement at Brown for registered parties.

      • Brown Greek ’15

        I think 15.5er means at unregistered parties as well… not a bad idea. If unregistered parties continue (and maybe they shouldn’t?), organizations like this one need to take strong steps towards making them safer spaces.

        Oddly enough, I heard from another Greek member that Phi Psi was actually scheduled to host a mandatory workshop on rape culture and sexual assault prevention the week following these events but had to cancel them since they are now suspended.

        • Greek Alum

          Fair enough (my house actually did do that), but you can’t say that in an article. By definition unregistered parties are not allowed so writing about them in the BDH to describe how you’ll make them safer would be moronic.

          • Brown Greek ’15

            They may not be ‘allowed’ but they are certainly tolerated. DPS doesn’t patrol Wriston or Keeney or other hubs where unregistered parties happen and rarely breaks them up.

            Since we are talking about unregistered parties however, it is odd to bother discussing whether they should continue or how they might be made safer.

            Still, it is possible that the Greek houses on campus could agree to hold any unregistered event with a greater degree of management and precaution. As you say, it would all still be ‘not allowed’ and thus impossible to regulate.

          • 2gen alum

            This is criminal negligence by Brown University and the people who run it.

        • 15.5er

          Yup, I meant an unregistered parties like the one where this happened. If what you say is true, that workshop was not promoted since it is nowhere on their website. Still it is a shame that they cannot host it anymore.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that phi psi is only writing this letter because they are in hot water and want to clear their reputation, as opposed to always having had a manifesto against sexual violence. Real solidarity commands more action than just when it is convenient.

          • Brown Greek ’15

            I’ll agree with that. It makes since for them to write this since the original email to the student body did cast them as directly implicated in the provision of date rape drugs and the sexual assault..this helps clarify some points that should have been clarified in the original email.

            As you’re saying however, real solidarity will require action extending beyond this letter.

    • John Piecington

      Also, there is a requirement that all individuals who choose to join greek life must go through a sexual assault prevention program. It should also be recognized that the violence was not perpetrated by a member of Phi Psi. While I do think a workshop on combating rape culture is a good idea, it is unfair to characterize this situation as if greek life has not and is not continuing doing things to prevent this. Last thing, while yes it is helpful to have sober people around at parties, and yes there are actually some sober brothers at events in various greek houses, they can’t exactly monitor every single thing that is going on. It’s a terrible situation, and whoever committed this act needs to be punished, but an entire organization shouldn’t be thrown under the bus as a scapegoat.

      • 15.5er

        I actually didn’t know this, so thank you! Who puts together the mandatory sexual assault prevention program?

        • Greek Member

          SAPE visits our Greek house every year, and all members are required to attend the module on prevention/ awareness.

        • Greek Member

          In addition, all members are required to complete a course on alcohol, drinking, and sexual awareness/ assault prevention before initiation to their national fraternity

  • Open them eyes

    I don’t think anybody knows enough about this situation to put the sole responsibility of this on Phi Psi but regardless of any fraternities direct involvement I think the party culture at brown (which is in large part determined by the fraternities) is partially responsible for this. I think that Fraternities (and sports teams) often make people forget that they are part of a larger community and it dehumanizes the whole party scene. When I go to a frat party if I don’t know people there I feel totally unwelcome (probably because I’m not a Frat brother and I don’t have tits). It feels like a den of sexual conquest where the guys aren’t paying attention to anything but themselves, the girl they want to have sex with, and the other frat brothers (or members of whatever sports team is throwing the party). I’m just a fly on the wall (that often admittedly doesn’t play well with others) so take what I say with a pinch of salt but in my mind if ya’ll took a second to look around at the party culture you help form instead of just jumping to defend a small group of people you call brothers you wouldn’t be surprised this happened.

    • Eyes wide open

      I think that Brown students often make people forget that they are part of a larger community and it dehumanizes the whole party scene. When I go to a Brown party if I don’t know people there I feel totally unwelcome. It feels like a den of sexual conquest where people aren’t paying attention to anything but themselves, the person they want to have sex with, and their other friends. I’m just a fly on the wall (that often admittedly doesn’t play well with others) so take what I say with a pinch of salt but in my mind if ya’ll took a second to look around at the party culture you help form you wouldn’t be surprised this happened.

      FTFY

      • Open them eyes

        Idk it seems to happen more to me at frat and sports based parties, though that may be just because I only know of the non sport/frat parties where there’s more people I know or more people I relate to in more ways.

        • eyes wide open

          That’s because those are the organizations that are more willing to throw parties open to the public. How many dorm room/house parties are you rolling up to on a regular basis where you don’t know anyone there? Everyone there just immediately starts paying attention to you and trying to be your friend?

    • i don’t know you

      Frats at other schools will ask you thinks like “who do you know here?” and only grant access to girls that meet a selective “requirement.” Not saying this is the standard upon which Brown’s party culture should be compared, but perhaps we’ve got it better than we realize?

      • Open them eyes

        I’d prefer to take it on it’s own for what it is. You can paint lots of things in convenient colors if you compare it to something of your own choosing.

  • alum

    I remember when I was at Brown, Phi Psi had a very specific reputation. Very sad to hear that that reputation continues to be confirmed. Hoping for justice for the victims.

    Brown, like all college campuses, has a serious sexual assault problem and needs to take more aggressive steps to address it.

    • Evelyn Greely

      The best first step is to fire Paxson, Carey, Klawunn, and all current Brown University legal counsel. But, nobody has balls around here.

    • Brown 15’er

      You clearly have read nothing from the letter or have taken any steps to hear the whole story. You have some kind of bias that you clearly feel like perpetrating and it has no business here. Leave your bias in the past as these are new students with completely different experiences and behaviors.

    • Alum Also

      What rubbish. For years Phi Psi has had a rather good reputation on campus for decades. Its brothers represent a fine cross-section of the Brown community. It has been a strong house and has represented itself well in the community from my knowledge over many years. And no – I am not a brother.

      If, however, you or others simply do not like greek houses then that is another matter.

      Your post shows willful ignorance of both Phi Psi’s history and this tragic recent event. The alleged perpetrator had NO connection to Phi Psi!

      Your accusation towards one house – an incorrect one – lessens the truth of your final paragraph that we all could do more to address sexual assault problems.

  • Student

    Whether it was the fraternity or not, there were still people who were assaulted and there were still perpetrators. Brown needs to do a better job of teaching people to be PEOPLE, and to act respectfully and morally.

  • Brown15

    “We are confident that in no way did any member of Phi Kappa Psi engage in or perpetrate such atrocious and criminal behavior.”

    Claims like this are part of what makes it so hard for survivors of sexual assault to report what happened to them. Too many times, someone has come forward only to be accused of lying or “crying rape” just because others are so “confident” that their friends – or brothers, in this case – could never “engage in or perpetrate such atrocious and criminal behavior.”

    • Alum14

      No one seems to be questioning whether or not the assault happened. The email that was sent to students made it seem like there was a direct association between the potentially spiked drinks, the assailant, and the fraternity. It seems only fair to let them clarify their role in the situation. What seem undeniable is they created an environment that may have contributed to the assault being committed. If we want to have a productive conversation I think we should talk about how to create safe spaces, because isn’t that what we all really want?

    • Another 15’er

      Did you even try to read the original article and then this letter? This isn’t a case of the victim being accused of lying, but rather the fraternity stating that anyone under investigation in this case is not a member of the organization. Open your eyes and stop jumping to these conclusions. I expected better of a classmate…

      • Brown15

        In this case, no, the victim is not being accused of lying. But in far too many cases of sexual assault, the victim IS accused of lying, and I think statements like this contribute to why victims might be afraid that they would be accused of lying. To me, this statement doesn’t seem to be simply stating that no one is under investigation. It seems to be saying that the brothers KNOW that their fellow brothers would not commit a sexual assault. So if someone were assaulted by a brother in the future (or in the past), they might be afraid to come forward because a bunch of brothers might make a similar statement, like: “Well that couldn’t have happened because I am confident my brothers wouldn’t engage in that behavior.” I hope this clarifies my original point. I didn’t think I was jumping to conclusions, and I’m not saying that this assault was committed by a member of Phi Psi. I just think it’s important to be careful when you’re making blanket statements along the lines of “I know my friends wouldn’t sexually assault someone.”

  • Alexander Ramos

    were the girls hot?

  • Debra ’88

    I am interested in knowing how you can be “…confident that in no way did any member of Phi Kappa Psi engage in or perpetrate such atrocious and criminal behavior.” Did your fraternity conduct a background check on each member? Was there an investigation into the incident? Instead of circling the wagons, stand by your statements about not condoning sexual violence and be open to an investigation that involves both fraternity members and guests.

  • Nour

    Please sign the petition to suspend Phi Kappa Psi permanently from UVA; their suspension is currently temporary: https://www.change.org/p/teresa-sullivan-suspend-phi-kappa-psi-at-uva-permanently.

    For more information: https://www.facebook.com/shutdownphipsi.