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Peaceful protests against University of Iowa Phi Gamma Delta fraternity follow night of vandalism
FIJI accused of hosting what ‘may have been a party’ near date of alleged assault
IOWA CITY — Protesters demanding University of Iowa administrators kick the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity off campus took to the streets again Wednesday night — this time avoiding vandalism and sticking to chants, marching, and signs carrying the message they won’t stand for sexual violence.
“Even my dog understands when I say no,” one protester’s sign read.
“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. FIJI has got to go,” the group shouted, using the chapter’s shortened FIJI nickname.
Wednesday night’s group drew hundreds who started their protest outside UI President Barbara Wilson’s house and then shifted to the UI Pentacrest in front of the Old Capitol.
With protests expected again Thursday, the group continues to demand UI take action against FIJI, accused of fostering a climate that promotes sexual violence and, specifically, includes brothers who last September were accused of drugging and raping a sophomore and then photographing and filming the crime — later posting it online.
“These boys planned to rape this girl, along with many others and continue to get away with it,” according to an online petition calling for FIJI’s abolition — which as of Thursday morning had nearly 102,000 signatures. “Not only did these boys plan this and carry it out, but they sent the videos to their entire FIJI group chat where no one said a thing to stop it.”
The petition organizers accuse Iowa City police of failing to thoroughly investigate and the Johnson County Attorney of refusing to prosecute the boys — who protesters have identified on social media. They also accuse UI of insufficient action against the alleged perpetrators and the fraternity.
Iowa City police haven’t answered The Gazette’s questions about whether officers investigated the allegations — and the department hasn’t provided any investigative reports. But it issued a joint news release with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office requesting the public’s help “further investigating a sexual assault alleged to have occurred Sept. 5, 2020 at the Iowa Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity house.”
The department also asked for help identifying vandals who during Tuesday’s first night of protests outside the fraternity overturned cars, broke windows, and spray painted expletives on walls.
Iowa City police haven’t made any arrests or issued any tickets in connection with Tuesday’s vandalism. UI officials haven’t provided The Gazette any communication it has sent to FIJI or confirmed whether it has or is investigating FIJI for sexual violence.
The UI Dean of Students doesn’t list any fraternities or sororities on “interim” suspension pending an investigation.
FIJI currently is on disciplinary probation through May 14 after UI administrators in October 2020 determined the fraternity violated COVID polices and directives.
According to documents previously provided The Gazette regarding last year’s allegations, UI investigated FIJI for hosting an impermissible gathering Sept. 3. That investigation found FIJI had on that date held a 20-minute “pledging ceremony” of about 20 people.
“Because the chapter covers the windows during such ceremonies, you acknowledged it could appear to an observer that a party is occurring inside the chapter house,” according to Assistant Dean and Director of Student Accountability Angela Ibrahim-Olin’s sanction letter on Oct. 27, 2020.
Chapter officials “seemed surprised” by allegations they had hosted parties in early and late September, and they launched their “own internal investigation,” according to letter. Looping in the chapter live-in adviser, officials learned “on at least one of the nights of an alleged gathering (that may have been a party), chapter house residents invited guests over.”
“This resulted in a larger gathering of students in a common area of the chapter house than allowed or expected,” according to Ibrahim-Olin. “These students weren’t following social distancing or face covering expectations.”
The FIJI representative was “respectful and very apologetic,” according to the letter.
The Iowa FIJI chapter in fall 2020, according to a UI report, was the second largest on campus — with 116 members. That chapter earlier this week on Instagram issued a statement condemning sexual misconduct and vowing to expel any brothers “incapable of the exemplary conduct expected.”
“The chapter has and always will fully comply with the University of Iowa’s sexual misconduct education an protocol, and has been involved in serious efforts to establish a new system of member criteria that will help ensure such a saddening and irredeemable offense will never be repeated,” according to the statement on Instagram, where FIJI has turned off the ability to comment on its posts.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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