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USA: Ralliers respond to fraternity rape survey

Publish Date: 17 Dec 2011
Source: Vermont Cynic
By: Devin Karambelas and Lauren Drasler

Protesters gather outside Bailey/Howe to speak out against women's violence

The decision to shut down Sigma Phi Epsilon comes a day after a group of around 200 gathered outside of Bailey/Howe Library to protest the allegations against the fraternity.

Posters seen included "Shatter the Silence" and "Rape does not equal joke."

The fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon has been temporarily suspended after a survey surfaced that included a question asking members who they would rape.  More than 200 people gathered on the steps of Bailey Howe Library at UVM on Thursday to speak out.   Photo / Vermont Public Radio, Samantha Fields.

Senior Aliza Lederer-Plasket, the author of the blog Secret Life of A Sorority Dropout, spoke at the rally against women's violence and the existence of "rape culture" on campus.

"I received an email this Sunday night with a copy of the survey," Lederer-Plasket said.  "To say the least, I was appalled."

"This survey had been around for the past week and no one came forward," she said. "We cannot sit by and remain silent when this kind of behavior goes on in our community."

Tyler Boggess, the Client Services Director for Sigma Phi Epsilon, sent out a statement on behalf of the national chapter.

"The fraternity has instructed the chapter to cease all operations pending further investigation," according to the statement. "Sigma Phi Epsilon and its leadership programs are built on the concept of respect for both self and others."

"Any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the fraternity."

Professor Rashad Shabazz, Professor of Geography, spoke out at the protest about the need for gender education at the University.

"There is no place at this institution for such violence," Shabazz said. "I hope that other men in this community will take a strong public stand against this fraternity."

The University has suspended the fraternity for the second time this year because of an offensive interview question that allegedly circulated among Sig Ep members and possibly others, according to an email sent to students by Thomas Gustafson, vice president for student and campus life.

According to some students and FedUp Vermont, a group that promotes women's social and economic equality, the interview question asked fraternity members who they would choose to rape if they could, an article in the Burlington Free Press stated. 

Burlington Free Press article stated that the national chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon had released a statement and was planning to send a representative to Sig Ep, which they did on Dec. 13.

"The Fraternity has instructed the chapter to cease all operations, pending further investigation," the organization stated on its website. "Sigma Phi Epsilon and its leadership programs are built on the concept of respect for both self and others."

Although Gustafson said in his email to the students and faculty that the University was conducting "an investigation of legal and policy violations," the University is still not sure who is responsible for the email and what the consequences of this incident will be.

"We've got to give them some due process, obviously," Gustafson said to the Burlington Free Press. "We don't know yet if this will drift into the criminal realm, or if it's just an internal UVM issue."

In response, FedUp Vermont has created an online petition to disband UVM's largest fraternity and has also planned to hold a "speak out against rape culture and sexism" conference on the steps of Bailey/Howe on Thursday.

As of Thursday, the online petition had received 3,141 virtual signatures with a signature goal of 5,000.

Some students said that they were disappointed with Sig Ep's actions.

"I first found out about the survey through another student's blog, and was completely shocked," junior Sarah Carpenter said.  "I just feel like there is this stigma with guys in fraternities and how they treat women, and they're just playing into that stereotype by doing something like this."

As a result of the survey, Carpenter said she thinks the fraternity should be shut down.

 "They need to be held accountable for their actions," she said. "If they were being racist or homophobic I'm sure that UVM wouldn't think twice about shutting them down, but for some reason joking about who you would like to rape is just enough to put them on suspension."

Other students said that it's impossible to judge all fraternities from the actions of one.

"Students and faculty should realize that regardless of the situation, judging an entire group of people based on the actions of what I have heard to be just one or two, isn't appropriate," sophomore ChelseaKantola said.  "However, students in Greek Life need to realize that their actions not only represent themselves, but an entire national chapter and system."

Kantola also said that the people who created the survey should take away an important lesson from this incident.

"For the person or people that created the survey, they should be as apologetic and regretful as possible," she said. "And use this experience as a huge life lesson."

Copyright © 2011 The Vermont Cynic