Editor’s note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
A crowd of an estimated 300 protestors formed on campus outside the Theta Chi fraternity on Sunday afternoon after allegations of sexual assault by fraternity brothers surfaced on anonymous social media platforms. Chants of “There’s no place for rapists at UMass” filled N. Pleasant Street as protesters waved cardboard signs above the crowd.
The protest was organized after University of Massachusetts students shared their experiences with fraternities on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak. Students were protesting behavior from both Theta Chi and Zau Beta Tau (ZBT).
Word of the protest spread through Yik Yak and through the UMass subreddit. Reddit user throwaway172050 posted: “Today at noon there’s a protest on theta at 12 and a march to ZBT afterwards. This is the time. We will not be silent.” The post garnered 121 upvotes and 60 comments as of Sunday afternoon.
Senior psychology major Shivali Mashar and her friends were among the attendees who heard about the protests through Yik Yak.
“I think that if we keep letting it slide and telling girls ‘don’t get blackout drunk if you don’t want anything to happen to you,’ that’s perpetuating the idea of rape culture and that’s not helping anybody,” Mashar said.
“I’ve also been roofied, and I know a lot of other girls here who have been, so I think that we all have to fight for each other. That’s what it comes down to,” she said. “I’m lucky because I woke up in my own bed, but not every girl was that lucky. I think that’s what drives a lot of victims, is that they’ve dealt with this experience and they’re strong enough to move past it and fight.”
Protestors lowered the flag outside the on-campus Theta Chi house and replaced it with a sign that read “How to prevent rape: 1. Don’t rape 2. See above.” Protestors also tossed cans and bottles over the fence and taunted the brothers inside the house.
Brothers were seen leaving Theta Chi, mocking and videotaping protestors and throwing cans from their vehicles.
The protests also attracted a heavy police presence.
Police officers stand on opposite sides of the street as protesters at 2:09p.m. outside of the Theta Chi house. @MDCollegian @MDCollegian pic.twitter.com/Z4RA1dnT5S
— Sophia Gardner (@sophieegardnerr) September 19, 2021
According to a statement from Amherst Police Department, residents from the fraternity called the police for assistance around 12:12 p.m.
“With limited resources at hand, the Amherst Police Department contacted the University of Massachusetts Police Department, the Hadley Police Department, and the Massachusetts State Police for mutual aid assistance,” read the statement.
By 2 p.m., at least nine UMass Police, Amherst Police and state trooper vehicles were parked on the street, a few feet away from where the protesters were gathered. The police proceeded to usher protesters across the street from the fraternity. At least 11 police officers were present by the time the protest disbanded.
“An investigation into the incident is ongoing,” read the statement.
At one point, a police officer shouted to protesters, “don’t lose your education over this!”
At the protest outside of the Theta Chi fraternity, an Amherst Police officer tries to move along student protestors, telling them “Don’t lose your education over this. There’s a process and this isn’t it.” @MDCollegian @CollegianNews pic.twitter.com/8zjsSsUoGI
— McKenna Premus (@mckenna_premus) September 19, 2021
Students protesting around the Theta Chi fraternity chanting “F—- Theta Chi” @MDCollegian @CollegianNews pic.twitter.com/q3iZsL0HHc
— McKenna Premus (@mckenna_premus) September 19, 2021
Both UMPD and the Amherst Police Department were not available to respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
A Change.org petition calling for the University to disband the fraternity has accumulated over 20,000 signatures since its creation at around 1 p.m. on Sunday. The petition alleges a culture of sexual assault and violence at Theta Chi.
“This is where we need to be, protesting against these fraternities because this is not okay, and the fact that it keeps happening and happening and nothing’s being done about it is not okay. Never was okay and it needs to stop,” said Rachel Weiner, a junior public health major.
“We’re women, we’re humans, and we deserve to be respected. We should be able to go and have a good time and not have to worry about being assaulted or hurt or harmed,” she said. “I’m someone’s daughter, someone’s niece. Don’t you have female relatives, female friends, would you treat them how you’re treating the women you’re harming? Fraternity culture is sick anyways and overall it needs to change.”
Theta Chi was also at the center of controversy in February 2021, when nearly 8,000 students signed a petition to disband the fraternity following reports that the fraternity held parties that violated the University’s COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s high time that this frat and that one next door and all of them get either completely banned, or there needs to be consequences for these people, because they’re just getting away with it and they know they can,” Mashar said.
“UMass is committed to responding promptly and effectively to all allegations of sexual assault and misconduct,” said University spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski in a statement.
“We strongly encourage members of our community with information related to the alleged Theta Chi incident or any incident of sexual assault or misconduct to contact university authorities immediately. A variety of confidential options are available, including the Center for Women and Community and the UMass Police. At the directive of survivors, these discussions can then result in the initiation of investigative or disciplinary action,” Blaguszewski said.
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian cannot verify the allegations of assault by Theta Chi or ZBT brothers at this time.
The Collegian news team can be reached at [email protected] Follow them on twitter @CollegianNews.