@Metoo_WashU hosts vigil for survivors and leads ‘tour’ of Fraternity Row, calling out sexual violence and rape culture within Greek Life

| Managing Editor
A close-up on a person's hands, which are clenched as the person wears a long-sleeve green shirt and holds a plastic candle with a white base and an orange glow.

A student holds a candle at the vigil Friday night. (Photo by Emmett Campbell | Student Life)

Editor’s note: This article contains discussion of sexual violence. We have listed resources for those impacted by this issue at the end of the story.

Around 50 students attended @metoo_washu’s two-part vigil for survivors at the Overpass and protest for Greek Life abolition on Fraternity Row Friday night.

Volunteers at the vigil read stories of sexual violence that had been shared anonymously on the @metoo_washu Instagram page. During the second half of the night, students marched to Fraternity Row and stood outside each house chanting “F*** rapists” among other calls for the abolition of Greek Life.

Organizers titled the protest “Occupy the Red Zone,” referring to the period between the start of the fall semester and the beginning of Thanksgiving break, when more than half of all sexual assaults on college campuses tend to occur according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The two-part structure of the night was intended to give survivors a place to process trauma while also enabling community members to call for change. 

Junior Marin Powers, who attended both the vigil and the protest, said that hearing the stories of survivors before protesting had a powerful effect. 

“I did like having the vigil beforehand,” Powers said. “I think it really makes you think and reflect before and it really gets you fired up for protesting, and I would definitely attend again.”

Junior Lexy Courneya, a volunteer at the event, began the protest on Fraternity Row by framing it as a tour of campus.

“We’ll go from house to house and we’re going to take you on a tour that you did not receive as a prospective student,” Courneya told protestors. “And on this tour, you’re going to visit sites of sexual violence and rape culture. So although sexual violence occurs throughout the Washington University campus and adjacent neighborhoods, a significant number of sexual assaults and rapes occur right here on Frat Row.”

A 2018 survey by the Women’s Panhellenic Association found that sorority members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact from members of every fraternity on campus. A 2019 campus climate survey conducted by the Association of American Universities found that 42.5% of undergraduate women could expect to experience nonconsensual sexual contact by their fourth year at Washington University.

Outside of each house, volunteers supplemented these statistics with individual accounts of sexual violence or general misconduct that had occured at each location, such as a survivor’s story of being raped by a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Nu brothers “mock kidnapping” a sophomore girl and Kappa Sigma knowingly offering bids to two pledges who had been accused of sexual misconduct. 

Near the end of the night as protestors were standing outside the Tau Kappa Epsilon house, three brothers walked through the crowd to enter their house. Some protestors followed them up to the door, shouting “Shame on you,” “Come out you cowards” and “Matt Jones come defend your frat,” referring to the president of Tau Kappa Epsilon. The protestors initially held the door open, but soon allowed the brothers to shut it after organizers called for de-escalation. 

Matt Jones did not respond to an email request for comment.

Courneya called out the University’s inadequate response to the broader issue of sexual assault on campus.

“The rate at which fraternity members rape freshmen concerns administrators to the extent that they banned freshmen from visiting fraternities during the Red Zone,” Courneya said. “Why would administrators ban freshmen from fraternities citing concerns about sexual violence, but not ban fraternities themselves?”

In an interview with Student Life, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rob Wild clarified that the University had no formal rule against freshmen visiting fraternities during the first three weeks of school, but in previous years had restricted fraternities from hosting social events during the first few weeks of school to accommodate alcohol and safety training.

“At the time when we were having social events, we needed time to train the leaders who were hosting events about what University expectations would be around alcohol and other safety measures for social events,” Wild said. “I’m not familiar with a written policy that prevented first year students from being in fraternity houses.”

Due to the pandemic, Greek organizations are currently not allowed to host registered social events, Executive Director of Campus Life Leslie Heusted told Student Life earlier this month.

Associate Director for Campus Life Beth Doores, who attended the event, came under fire as protestors shouted at her for not supporting the movement to fully abolish Greek Life. 

Last fall, Doores had developed a co-curricular advisory board to help the University determine the role of Greek Life on campus, but many students on the board were frustrated that abolition was not taken seriously and resigned in protest.

When asked to comment on the accusations, Doores referred Student Life to Wild. 

Wild said that the Office of Student Affairs is currently working on its public response to some of the recommendations made by the co-curricular advisory board, which include the elimination of dues, the dehousing of fraternities and stricter measures to eliminate hazing and interpersonal violence. However, he remained adamant that the University does not plan to abolish Greek Life. 

“What I heard from people who were at the protest on Friday night is that the main request is for the complete elimination of fraternities and sororities at Washington University,” Wild said. “And that is not something the University is considering currently. So that may indeed continue to be a point of conflict for the University and the students involved.”

Safe Connections is a St. Louis organization that provides individual therapy free of charge to adults and youth of all genders ages 12+ who have experienced rape, domestic or dating abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), sex trafficking and/or childhood sexual abuse. Their helpline can be reached 24/7 at 314-531-2003.

The Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (S.A.R.A.H) provides confidential and anonymous support and can be reached at 314-935-8080 24/7 during the academic year.

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center provides confidential support and can be reached at 314-935-3445 or [email protected]

The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-4673 or via online chat at online.rainn.org.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233. It can also be reached at thehotline.org or by texting LOVEIS to 22522. The organization provides 24/7 counseling and support for anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse or knows someone who is.

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