Content warning: Sexual violence
Several student protesters assembled outside the Phi Gamma Delta, or Fiji, fraternity Saturday afternoon to protest sexual assault. But they were interrupted by members of the fraternity, who began posing behind the protesters in what many alleged was a mockery of the rally.
Protesters held signs that described the statistics of sexual violence at fraternities and encouraged passers-by to “boycott frats.” Standing behind the protestors, at least six men posed and held up peace signs for a picture that was privately distributed among the Fiji group chat and posted on Instagram, according to Benni Cinkle and Veronica Ellis, co-directors of Greeks Against Sexual Assault.
The UC Berkeley Interfraternity Council and members of Fiji could not be reached for comment as of press time.
“These attitudes exist, and have for a while, and should serve as a reminder that we are not exempt from these problematic and destructive attitudes,” Cinkle and Ellis said in an email. “Members of our campus community — neighbors, classmates, friends — have made concrete the notion that survivors are not safe, not taken seriously, and not supported.”
Campus senior Walker Spence posted about the incident Sunday morning on Facebook. Spence said in an email that he was spurred to create the post after his housemate, a member of Fiji, sent him the picture in a chat. Spence added that he posted the picture to show that there should be consequences for the incident.
“There’s no reason why we need to create a safe space for men to perform patriarchy to the detriment of every other person on the campus,” Spence said in an email. “Anyone in a frat is complicit in upholding a set of values that systematically victimizes women, queer people, people of color, and anyone who does not confirm to their heteronormative patriarchal white supremacist values.”
One protester, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the fraternity members in the photo, said in an email that she was shocked by the “gross” slurs, heckling and comments from the fraternity members during the rally. She added, however, that she was more surprised by the amount of support she received from parents, alumni and sorority members who approached her to express their gratitude during the protest.
Many students have been protesting at fraternities in the past few weeks. When UC Berkeley students protested Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court on Oct. 4, they marched up to the fraternity house Delta Kappa Epsilon, which is unaffiliated with the campus — the fraternity that Kavanaugh was part of while at Yale University.
Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff said in an email that the campus would typically not involve itself in the events of Saturday’s protest, given that Fiji is not recognized by UC Berkeley. In this particular case, however, the campus Leadership, Engagement, Advising and Development, or LEAD, Center has reached out to Fiji’s headquarters to discuss the incident.
Ratliff added that Fiji, which is not one of the 63 fraternities and sororities recognized by the campus, does not choose to attend trainings organized by LEAD that are tailored toward issues including alcohol abuse, sexual assault and hazing.
The ASUC Sexual Violence Commission is organizing a meeting with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council to address the incident, according to commission chair Ezra Alanis and assistant chair Erika Casey. Alanis and Casey added that they are “deeply disappointed” in the people who mocked the protest. They argued that these people, as a result, mocked all survivors of sexual misconduct.
ASUC Senator Zach Carter said in an email that the incident is invalidating to survivors of sexual violence both inside and outside of the Greek community. He added that the campus community must listen to and recognize the voices of those who have been harmed.
“It in is these exact spaces where the next generation’s Brett Kavanaugh is created and encouraged,” said a protester, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the Fiji members in the photo, in an email. “If we are to take seriously the sickness afflicting our nation’s governing bodies, our political action can’t end at the polls—it must take place here, too.”