MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After months of controversy surrounding allegations of sexual assault in the University of Minnesota community, a group of students says it is time for change.
A couple hundred men and women marched along a portion of University Avenue called Fraternity Row Saturday afternoon to show support for survivors of sexual violence.
State numbers show that of 294 sexual assault cases reported to Minnesota colleges and universities in 2015, a little more than half were investigated. About a quarter of all reported incidents resulted in discipline.
Marchers told WCCO’s Nina Moini about what they feel it will take to change campus culture for the better.
“That night I curled up in my bed praying for sleep only to be greeted with nightmares on the other side,” survivor Maria Gilbert said.
Stories of survivors forced put their dreams on hold to focus on healing.
“I heard about some of his fraternity brothers calling me a liar and saw them staring at me in public,” Gilbert said. “Everywhere I went I thought I saw him.”
The march comes after Delta Upsilon’s international organization recently suspended the U of M chapter due to an ongoing investigation into inappropriate chapter culture, behavior and operations.
“It is nice to see people here in letter sweatshirts,” Dawson Kimyon said. “We are going to need true allies on the inside because you guys have the privilege to demand that change from the inside out.”
A former Delta Upsilon member joined marchers as they passed the home, where a sign in the window reads “We must do better, we can do better, we will do better.”
“By being silent, by not speaking out, you are siding with perpetrators and that’s just a fact,” Kimyon said.
Organizers with the group Break the Silence say they’re pleased the university has decided to give faculty, staff and students more training in issues of sexual violence, but it will take more work to change campus culture.
“I would like to see these young men hold each other accountable to a much higher standard of what it means to be a man,” Sarah Super said.
Speaking up, in hopes that more survivors will find their voices.
“I beg you to please be kind to yourself, seek the help that you need, allow yourself time to heal,” Gilbert said. “People can be hurt, but are never broken.”
Fraternity members at the rally said they were told not to speak with reporters.
Delta Upsilon’s Minnesota chapter released the following statement:
“On Friday, Feb. 17, Delta Upsilon International Fraternity temporarily suspended its chapter at the University of Minnesota as we investigate inappropriate chapter culture, behavior and operations. In April 2016, Delta Upsilon International Fraternity first learned of sexual assault allegations against two members of the chapter. This was after the university had investigated and adjudicated the allegations. Because the Fraternity’s judicial process emphasizes self-governance, at that time, the chapter and alumni board took action to expel both men. In February 2017, we learned of additional allegations and potential policy violations, as well as that the correct expulsion processes for those two men were not followed. The temporary suspension is a result of this information learned. As we continue to investigate the allegations, all chapter activities have ceased. Delta Upsilon is committed to providing a positive, safe environment for all members the entire Minnesota campus community.”
The North-American Interfraternity Conference, which represents dozens of fraternities, gave the following statement:
“The Interfraternity Council recognizes sexual assault is one of the largest issues facing our campus and we believe we are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role addressing this problem. We understand there is much to do to eradicate instances of sexual assault, however we will continue to identify and implement programs that address awareness, bystander behavior, and prevention.
“All new members within the IFC community attend a workshop hosted by the Aurora Center, the University of Minnesota’s office for advocacy and education for issues of sexual assault and relationship violence. Additionally, we will continue to work with the Panhellenic Council to co-host educational programming covering sexual assault awareness on an annual basis. We commit to working diligently, in partnership with the university, to educate our campus community members in this area and welcome opportunities to collaborate.”