‘Silence is deafening’: Frustration grows after UC Berkeley Interfraternity Council’s lack of response to Fiji incident

Zahira Chaudhry/Staff

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Content warning: Sexual violence

The campus community is still awaiting a response from the campus Interfraternity Council, or IFC. It has been more than a week since members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, or Fiji, jokingly posed in front of sexual assault protesters.

When Greeks Against Sexual Assault, or GASA, called on IFC to respond to the picture, IFC dismissed the request because Fiji is not technically part of the council, according to a statement from GASA released Saturday. The IFC could not be reached for comment as of press time.

“IFC’s lack of clear, direct, and public leadership tells us that the council does not understand the weight of these matters and the messages they continuously send to this community,” GASA said in the statement. “To the leadership still stuck in cycles of inaction: your silence is deafening.”

GASA said in the statement that it is the responsibility of Fiji to take ownership of its actions, not to tell “their side of the story,” as some members of Fiji have tried to do. GASA called on leadership in the Greek community to end their silence because it is up to them to change the community.

Kimberly Cowderoy, president of the campus Panhellenic Council, or PHC, said in an email that PHC does not condone the behavior exhibited in the photo and stands with survivors both inside and outside the Greek community.

Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff said in an email that the LEAD Center reached out to Fiji’s headquarters out of concern and to inform them of the incident, but he could not comment on Fiji’s response or internal affairs. Fiji’s headquarters could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Since Fiji is an unrecognized organization, the campus has no jurisdiction over it, according to Ratliff. He added that there have been no reports of student misconduct related to Fiji reported to the campus Center for Student Conduct.

The ASUC has also responded to the photograph. A letter signed by President Alexander Wilfert and several senators said they were “deeply troubled” by the photo and emphasized the importance of holding community leaders, including themselves, to a higher standard.

The letter called for policy changes, including developing a reporting system that institutionalizes PATH To Care resources, implementing consistent accountability systems across chapters and increasing transparency about the chapters’ affiliation status.

Other proposed policy changes include introducing coed consent education, addressing “healthy masculinity” and social norms within the Greek community and developing a culture that allows survivors to come forward without compromising their privacy.

IFC said it would incorporate a new member education curriculum with a mandatory cultural competency component, but there has been nothing to that extent, according to ASUC Senator Zach Carter.

In response to the incident at Fiji, former Panhellenic Council president Summer Collins said in a Facebook post that she was ashamed to have ever had faith in the Greek community to grow and change.

“As a former leader of this community who prioritized consent education and sexual assault prevention, I am so sickened to see that this is the track left behind,” Collins said in the post.

ASUC Senator Amma Sarkodee-Adoo said she is hopeful the incident at Fiji was one of many “wake-up calls” for IFC. She added that leadership across campus wants to see tangible change within the Greek system and that the campus is in a “prime position” to enact change.

“I’m not surprised by IFC inaction — that’s not new. What’s poignant is the deafness of people in our community.” Carter said. “It’s beyond FijiIt’s one thing to be inactive, and it’s another thing to actively disregard poignant and valid criticism of a community that we all take part in.”

Contact Alexandra Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey_dc.