Thousands of students at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, have been protesting outside the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house after a sexual assault was reported.
The protests come barely one year after the fraternity emerged from a multiyear suspension following a university investigation that uncovered a pattern of behavior that included "reckless alcohol use, hazing and inappropriate sexually based behavior, including a pattern of sexually harassing conduct," according to an announcement in 2017.
According to a report on the campus police’s website, the assault happened around 11:30 p.m. Monday. A “university affiliate” also reported a disturbance and a “wild party” the same time that night at the Phi Gamma Delta’s house. It’s unclear if the two are related.
A 19-year-old male member of Phi Gamma Delta is under investigation for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old female student, the university communications office told BuzzFeed News.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the fraternity's governing body said it takes the allegations “very seriously” and “does not tolerate sexual violence.” The chapter at UNL is also cooperating with authorities “as they investigate allegations of sexual assault by one of its members.”
Word about the alleged sexual assault started to spread via social media. Soon, thousands of people were protesting against sexual violence in front of the fraternity house of Phi Gamma Delta (also known as Fiji). People held up signs that read “If U Didn’t Stop It, U R Guilty 2,” “Even My Dog Understands When I Say No,” and “Kill All Rapists.”
Rose Felice, a sophomore at UNL, told BuzzFeed News that she started the Instagram account @shutdownfiji on Tuesday after she heard about the reported assault. She also started a petition to “ban Fiji forever,” which has more than 230,000 signatures. She estimates thousands of people were at the protests on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
A call to the college's police station was forwarded to the university's communication office, which did not get back to BuzzFeed News.
On Wednesday, Ronnie Green, UNL’s chancellor, said in a statement posted on Instagram that the investigation into the alleged assault is open and ongoing. The university is also closing Phi Gamma Delta and suspending operations.
“We are committed to creating a safe campus environment for our students, faculty, and staff,” Green said in the statement. “No one should be a victim of sexual assault or harassment, and we have taken a number of steps to provide additional support and reporting mechanisms for our campus.”
Paige Ravenscroft, a senior at Nebraska Wesleyan University, which is also in Lincoln, told BuzzFeed News she went to protests on Tuesday and Wednesday after hearing about them on social media. While she was there, she said someone AirDropped a video to people at the protest. In the video, which BuzzFeed News reviewed, someone is recording the demonstrations from inside a building and laughing in the background. Another night, someone AirDropped a photo, which BuzzFeed News also reviewed, of “Fiji pledge rules,” which included “no interracial dating,” “no fagetry,” and “no Mexicans.”
Phi Gamma Delta did not respond to the allegations in the photo.
Angelina Stinson, a junior at Concordia University, which is about 30 miles from UNL, told BuzzFeed News she went to a protest after hearing about it from a friend. As someone who has been assaulted, she said, she is “tired of it.”
“It’s so unfortunate that the first thing you think of when you go to college as a woman is, ‘Am I going to be assaulted if I decide to maybe have fun for a night?’ But even having fun is definitely not asking for it.”
Correction: The photographer who took the first picture of the protest outside the Phi Gamma Delta house was misidentified in an earlier version of this post.