March 4, 2016

Letter: President of Psi U Responds to Student Criticism Regarding Sexual Assault

As I am sure you are already aware, there have been several Yik Yak and Overheard at UChicago posts over the last few days that have deeply troubled the University of Chicago community. These have also been troubling to the Psi Upsilon Fraternity, brothers and alumni alike. Sexual violence is a serious issue on college campuses across the country, including our own. It must be addressed. Even prior to the events of this week, we had taken it upon ourselves to reflect as an organization on how we can improve our safety procedures. Our chapter is committed to creating a safe and transparent campus environment. Since the beginning of fall quarter, we have taken numerous steps to improve safety in our fraternity, which will be addressed below. Firstly, we would like to openly speak to the concerns of the community regarding these posts and incidents.

Over this past summer, an incident of sexual assault occurred at our house, and was reported to the CPD. In response to the CPD report, our alumni president contacted the police department to receive more information. The police department was not able to give him the details regarding the investigation, including the name of the perpetrator. Instead, it shared a heavily redacted, publicly available version of the police report, which included the survivor’s cell phone number. In an attempt to discover the identity of the perpetrator, our alumni president reached out to the survivor by telephone. It was not his intention to make an already traumatic situation even more painful, but rather to identify the perpetrator so that Psi Upsilon could take appropriate action against him. We deeply regret that we caused the survivor additional and unnecessary distress.

In the following weeks the perpetrator revealed himself to the chapter and to the alumni president. The perpetrator, who was a brother of our fraternity, was apparently found responsible for sexual misconduct by the University. Immediately after this verdict, the chapter expelled the perpetrator from the fraternity. Our former external vice president then sent out an e-mail to the Panhellenic Council to be distributed to its members, addressing both the incident and the actions we took against this individual (please contact me if you would like us to release this email). Although we felt our actions at the time were proper, we now recognize that we should have done a better job addressing the greater University of Chicago community, and not just those involved in Panhellenic sororities.

Next, we would like to shed some light on the incident that occurred last April. On Wednesday, we reached out to Belinda Vasquez, the Title IX Coordinator, and to Jeremy Inabinet, Associate Dean of Students in the University for Disciplinary Affairs, to learn more. We met with them this morning and were informed that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act they are unable to discuss with us the identity of the accused, the verdict and punishment, or the case itself. We reached out to our alumni network for more information and the accused responded, notifying us of the results of the hearings. We have since banned the graduated perpetrator and are working with the Board of Trustees to take further action. Due to the University of Chicago’s policy on confidentiality with regard to ongoing sexual misconduct cases, the individual and all witnesses were prohibited from mentioning the proceedings to anyone who was not involved in the case. It has become clear to us that the accused decided to handle the case independently and that, in confidence, he acquired footage from the brother responsible for the external security cameras at the time. We would like to reiterate that neither the executive council nor the alumni president was ever contacted by the University, UCPD, or the CPD asking for entry into the house.

We find the information that has come to light since the posts were published deeply saddening. We are sorry that the survivors have had to endure the trauma of sexual violence. Psi Upsilon has a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual assault; to this end, throughout this academic year, we have taken several actions:

1.  In the fall, we invited Vickie Sides, the director of Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP), to our house and discussed Title IX and how we can do our part to prevent sexual violence on campus.

2. Earlier this year, we implemented new risk management procedures, which include weekly reports from our Risk Manager on how we as a fraternity can better ensure a safe environment.

3. We began designating identifiable brothers at large events to assist our guests and promote safety.

4. We have made available the contact information of our President, Vice Presidents, and Risk Manager prior to large events so that guests may easily reach us at any point.

5. We are currently developing new policies to improve transparency in our fraternity and to require our members to notify the executive council of any future investigations with the University.

We continue to critically evaluate our processes for recruiting, selecting, and training new members. We recognize that in order to develop a lasting solution to the issue of sexual violence, it is imperative that we enforce a culture within our house that respects our peers and proactively fights against the perpetuation of rape culture and misogyny.

As people who seek to positively contribute to the social fabric of the campus community, we must do better. Greek life can lead the charge to improve the current climate of sexual violence on campus: we, as brothers of Psi Upsilon, will do everything we can to be a part of that change. We welcome discussion with the community, and we want to be a part of an ongoing dialogue with this campus. If there is anything that you would like to discuss regarding Psi Upsilon, our conduct, or how we can improve, please reach out to myself or to the executive board of Psi Upsilon.

Editor’s note: Following publication, Armstrong clarified that the perpetrator was apparently found responsible for sexual misconduct, not sexual assault, by the University. The letter has been updated to reflect this clarification.

Comments have been closed.