Freshman Ashley Kerley wanted to participate in Take Back the Night, a national march against sexual violence, so that she could express support for survivors of violence and feel a sense of solidarity with fellow students who felt the same. A few days later, she still feels angry and upset how the march turned out.
Marchers on Friday night passed Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house Friday night, chanting “Hey, ho, patriarchy has to go” and “People unite, take back the night.” In response, members of the fraternity went inside and played “Proud to be an American,” drowning out the marchers chants. Once the marchers passed the house, the music was turned off.
“I wanted it to be an event where I could feel safe and I could feel empowered, and for them to step on that event … it was like a slap in the face,” Kerley said.
Within 24 hours of a request for comment by TKS, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (known colloquially as FIJI) issued an official statement on the incident to The Knox Student, which they asked not to be published in full. The board called the situation a “misunderstanding” on both sides.
“[T]he brothers involved partook in a minor act of ignorance towards marchers walking and yelling directly at our house,” the letter to TKS said.
Take Back the Night is an international event started in the 1970s with the focus on eliminating sexual violence. Since its creation, it has spread across the nation at women’s centers, universities and rape crisis centers. Take Back the Night has been celebrated at Knox for several years and is led by Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS).
Sophomore Libby Croce overheard the encounter from her dorm room in Williston Hall next door. When she overheard one person at the fraternity yell, “He’s your president” at the marchers, she was unhappy that they had misinterpreted the meaning of the march.
“Take Back the Night is not a partisan march; it is apolitical,” Croce said. “It is literally a march to end sexual violence … A fraternity of all people should not be doing that.”
The executive members, junior Thomas Janczur, sophomores Alexander Peck and Spencer Bauer and freshman Bryce Wilkinson, stated in the letter that the members who were involved had been subject to disciplinary action.
“Gamma Deuteron does the absolute most in combating sexual violence,” they said. “It would be against the core values of our Fraternity to not do so, and has taken every action currently, and in the past to ensure that Gamma Deuteron is a place free of these acts of humility.”
In addition, the board stated that they had also been “victims” as a result of the situation. They stated that they had been harassed online by students by stereotyping the group as “white boys” and for engaging in a large “role in rape culture.”
“These actions are a slander on the efforts that this chapter makes to spread awareness on sexual violence, and are below our common social standards as a house,” the statement said.
After the march, marchers discussed their frustrations over the confrontation but also directed the conversation back to the issue of sexual violence and consent. They held a moment of silence for victims of sexual and other kinds of violence.
Co-President of SASS freshman Kira Carney stated that the event was necessary despite low attendance.
“I think it’s important that people who were victims of sexual abuse, abuse of any kind, know that they have supporters. And even if they don’t march with us they see us and they hear us, because I understand that it is not always comfortable for everybody to come out and show their faces with this cause.”
Phi Gamma Delta and the co-presidents of SASS plan to hold a dialogue next week. In addition, SASS discussed ways in which they could bring sororities and fraternities into the discussion about sexual violence on campus in future Take Back the Nights.