At many colleges across the country, the fall semester has begun — and, if #BamaRush TikTok is any indication, Greek life is back in full force. Yet it appears there is also some backlash: This week, hundreds of students at University of Nebraska-Lincoln gathered to protest outside a frat house after a student was allegedly sexually assaulted. The protests began Tuesday night and doubled in size on Wednesday, with more than 1,000 students filling the block outside the house. A change.org petition to ban the fraternity — Phi Gamma Delta (known as Fiji) — is also circulating, with over 86,000 signatures and counting.
It’s no secret that frats have a sexual assault problem. Men in fraternities are three times more likely to commit rape than non-Greek life members, and women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other women in college. And, like many frats, Fiji appears to have a long history of toxic behavior: In 2017, reports that brothers were harassing Women’s March participants, including shouting “No means yes” as the march passed by their house, prompted an investigation from the school. Their findings ran the gamut from reckless alcohol use and hazing to a “pattern of sexually harassing conduct.”
Following the investigation, Fiji was suspended until May of last year and is still on probation, though it appears not much has changed: According to a local reporter who was in the crowd on Tuesday night, many protesters received an AirDropped video from inside the frat house, where the members can be heard laughing as the crowd chants things like “Abolish Fiji” and “Lock him up.”
Over the past year and a half, college students have formed the front lines of the fight to address the elitist, racist, sexist, and classist principles that Greek life is built on. Calls to abolish fraternities and sororities intensified during last summer’s wave of protests, as the country started to turn a more critical eye towards racist and toxic behavior at all kinds of institutions. Dozens of Instagram accounts posted anonymous reports of negative Greek life experiences, while students and alumni penned open letters and op-eds demanding that schools abolish fraternities and sororities and urging freshmen not to pledge. A lot of the action came from within the organizations themselves: A few voted to disband or saw a huge number of members leave in protest.
Untangling Greek life from its ties to the American college system is an uphill battle, mainly because the biggest alumni donors and board members tend to be Greek life graduates as well. (Considering the stats on class stratification in these organizations, this comes as no surprise.) On Wednesday, University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced it would be closing down Fiji and suspending operations while it investigates the report. Later that night, protesters announced they would march every night until, as one organizer said, “they move the letters — letter for letter — off this house.”