On Aug. 24, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, more commonly known as “FIJI," at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Since that day, protests erupted every night consecutively calling to ban the fraternity. Currently, a petition to ban the fraternity has reached more than 475,000 signatures with a goal of 500,000 signatures.
In a video statement from Aug. 25, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said that the university would work towards preventing further instances of sexual assault, including introducing prevention training by spring 2022. Since the allegation, FIJI has been suspended and an ongoing investigation is looking into the details of the alleged assault.
“Sexual assault is heinous and should never happen. I wish we lived in a world where it didn’t,” Green said. “We have taken a number of steps on our campus to prevent sexual assault, to help ensure victims feel comfortable coming forward, to support survivors and to investigate and address allegations of sexual misconduct.”
The ripples of the protests reverberated on campuses around the nation. According to Title IX Coordinator Ashley Blamey, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville can learn from these events and find ways to prevent sexual assault from happening on our campus.
“Part of my role is to be aware of the national landscape and learn from other campus’ experiences and work for continuous improvement,” Blamey said. “The work of sexual assault prevention is the job of every student, faculty and staff member. The Center for Health Education and Wellness in Student Life leads the prevention for students and the Office of Title IX works with faculty and staff. We work every day to articulate the expectation, to educate on the expectation and to have clear processes for addressing reports of violence.”
The Office of Title IX is the basis of how the university goes about sexual assault investigations and uses federal funding in order to carry these out. This office is constantly working to make sure every investigation is noticed and does what they can to hold those responsible. Blamey spoke about how the university prevents situations like these.
“Title IX is a federal law that defines expectations for universities that receive federal money related to sex-based discrimination which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking,” Blamey said. “My office’s job is to ensure the university is compliant with Title IX. The University of Tennessee’s Title IX Commitment is grounded in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social-Ecological Model. Our Commitment emphasizes five key areas: Policy, Prevention and Education, Supportive Measures, Investigation and Resolution and Patterns and Trends.”
This prevention doesn’t mean only staff and faculty do all the work. Students play a large role in preventing sexual assault but that requires everyone to be compliant in the first place.
Fraternities are the group of students that are under fire for being a hot spot for sexual assault occurrences. The FIJI fraternity at UNL has not shown a reaction to the protests that have been present every night. By working towards change and holding attackers accountable, fraternities across the nation can work towards preventing shut downs.
Interfraternity Council President, senior Will Rice, released a statement to the Daily Beacon concerning how UT fraternities should be able to do just that.
“Over the last several years, IFC has pushed chapters to move away from any form of common source alcohol which has a huge potential for over-serving and drink tampering,” Rice said. “Our executive council has a health safety team comprised of a Vice President of Health and Safety and Chairman of Health and Safety in the following term. This helps promote long term health and safety goals for events and members of our chapter, especially sexual assault awareness.”
Rice said that fraternities at UT have taken specific educational measures to ensure a connection between Title IX and Greek life.
“In April, we put on a contest to have chapters decorate their front doors in denim for denim day, which is centered around sexual assault awareness,” Rice said. “We have had Title IX speak at our president’s meetings and we conduct other events that ties potential sexual assault like our health and safety summit. Through these actions, we do our best to educate our members and provide them with resources in the event that there is an incident.”
Fraternities at UT push to keep their members educated and to prevent sexual assault. Though these are actions that many fraternities around the nation take, the assault and subsequent protests at UNL are a stark reminder that no campus is completely immune from the chronic problem of sexual assault.