Normally at The Missourian, we cover issues pertaining to Northwest, Maryville and the surrounding area. However, we stand in solidarity with violence survivors and agree with those who organized the protests at Northwest: the Lambda Nu chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln needs to be banned, and more needs to be done, especially by men, to prevent sexual violence.
There’s much to be said about recent events regarding the Lambda Nu chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, often dubbed Fiji. Turmoil has brewed in Lincoln for much longer than the past month or so, but the student body has finally had enough — justifiably so.
Since 2005, UNL has dealt with issues and complaints concerning the Fiji chapter after numerous reports of rape have been linked to the chapter. The chapter was put on probation for sexual misconduct and reckless alcohol abuse in 2015 before being suspended from 2017 to 2020.
The alleged assault that earned the chapter its three-year suspension came from a reported rape — the 103rd since 2005 and the 78th since 2015 to happen at the Fiji house. Unfortunately, the event that triggered the campus’ most recent disciplinary action was not dissimilar from previous years.
At 3:47 a.m. on Aug. 24, a 17-year-old girl -- a UNL freshman weeks into her first semester of college — walked out of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house and walked into a Lincoln hospital, where she told police she was raped by a 19-year-old member of the fraternity, according to police. Eight hours later, UNL police fielded another report from an alleged sexual violence survivor — the 79th reported to campus police since 2015. In the days since, there have been five more.
The student body responded with consecutive days of protest to hold the predatory members of the chapter accountable for their crimes. Since the protests have started, the house has been closed for investigation into an alleged sexual assault.
The statistics of reports coming from one Greek-lettered organization is horrifying enough to span across states. So much so, that Northwest held a rally to support sexual violence survivors and demand the banning of Phi Gamma Delta at UNL.
In Lincoln, UNL police have launched criminal investigations into 48 alleged rapes and attempted rapes since September 2015, according to the university. Nine of those — 18.75% — are alleged to have occurred at Greek houses. One arrest has been made.
Northwest’s ability to organize a rally so quickly is a testament to how widespread the issue of sexual violence is. Whether it’s reported or not, this violence happens on every campus and it's encouraging to see that Northwest has a community willing to stand against it.
Greek life has always been present when it comes to the discussion or demonstration in support of sexual assault survivors. Last year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event raised more than $1,000 for the North Star Advocacy Center. However, it did more than donate to a cause.
The spectacle of men walking down the streets of Maryville in crimson heels is quite odd. That’s the point, or at least part of it. It allowed the conversation to start, for questions to be asked. It also provided a method for men to feel a slight portion of the pain women go through on a daily basis. That solidarity and call for conversation is a step that’s necessary in ending sexual violence.
Much like the annual Walk a Mile event, the rally held in protest of Fiji is exactly what should be expected from students. For far too long, sexual assaults have been swept under the rug or mocked by those who believe it's acceptable to act in such a manner. Obviously, the organization has not done its part to educate its members on its extensive history with sexual violence, nor has it implemented safeguards to prevent its members from aforementioned behaviors.
For example, during the recent UNL protests, a video surfaced of residents of the house laughing while protesters could be heard outside. It’s apparent that members of the fraternity don’t see the gravity of their situation, nor have the maturity to handle it appropriately.
Although the rally won’t directly call out the university or its Phi Gamma Delta chapter, it’s showing Northwest students there’s no tolerance for such behavior in Maryville. It should send a message of solidarity and support to survivors of sexual violence and create an environment of comfort on campus.
Northwest is in no way immune to sexual violence. A report created by UPD and off-campus law enforcement states that Northwest averages roughly seven reports of rape a year with 7,000 students. This is not simply an issue 122 miles away in a separate state, it’s one that hits right here at home.
As a university, Northwest has continued its stance against sexual violence every year by offering various resources to aid survivors and avoid future assaults. Annually, freshmen attend a “Can I Kiss You?” lecture detailing the ins and outs of consent and how to not cross into sexually aggressive behavior. It’s a bad reflection on your character if you choose not to pay attention to it or not respect your potential partner’s answer.
Additionally, Northwest’s Coalition Against Violence offers self-defense lessons while the University Police Department’s hotline allows callers to speak with an assault advocate 24/7.
The Lighthouse Project page on the University’s website lists hotlines for anybody to use whenever needed.
The conversation of sexual violence is difficult, but the only way to eliminate it is by respecting boundaries and holding offenders accountable. Always ask for consent and make sure consent is present through the entire sexual encounter.
To report a sexual assault or speak with a sexual assault advocate, call UPD at 660-562-1254. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE. For more information on North Star Advocacy call at 660-562-2320.