On Tuesday, March 11, a student filed a lawsuit against the Psi Upsilon (Psi U) national fraternity and the University’s Xi Chapter, alleging that in May 2013, she was sexually assaulted by a fraternity pledge in the common room of the Psi U house following a male strip show.
The strip show, called Xi Male, is a Psi U tradition that occurs each semester as the culmination of the pledging process before the pledges are inducted into the fraternity as brothers. An anonymous member of the class of 2016 who was present at the event described the Xi Male strip show.
“Each pledge goes up on stage and strips to a different song,” the anonymous student said. “The audience was made up of mostly girls and a lot of freshmen, and we were given fake money to throw at the pledges while they stripped. The pledges were obviously very inebriated and were falling all over the place, as were most of the members of the audience.”
Executive Director of the International Office of Psi Upsilon Thomas J. Fox declined to comment to The Argus but released a statement on the fraternity website on Wednesday, March 12.
“Psi Upsilon Fraternity takes all reports of risk management violations, especially those with regard to sexual assault, very seriously,” the statement reads. “…We are currently investigating the incident and gathering further information.”
The survivor, Cabri Chamberlin ’16*, has chosen to release statements to the press and allow her name to be printed. Her lawyer, Douglas Fierberg, spoke to this decision.
“With respect to why she’s used her name, she’s been pretty clear that she doesn’t believe she did anything wrong,” Fierberg said. “And after being so victimized, she is not going to be forced into hiding or not fighting back for justice.”
According to Fierberg, Chamberlin is not aware of having received any criticism for releasing her name or for filing the lawsuit.
“Not that we’ve heard [any negative backlash],” Fierberg said. “But neither of us have pored over the comments that the articles have.”
Fierberg discussed the survivor’s feelings about the University’s handling of the situation and the steps taken after the attack.
“I think she believes the University handled [the incident] in accordance with its rules,” Fierberg said. “She did go to the authorities. She filed a police report. I understand it’s still under investigation [with regards to whether the attacker will be charged]. So she went…to the University and to the hospital and to the police.”
President Michael Roth confirmed that the perpetrator was expelled by the University.
“[The assailant] was dismissed from the University,” Roth said. “[Online rumors to the contrary] are just not true. He was kicked out.”
Fierberg discussed the survivor’s goals with regards to the lawsuit.
“She hopes to get [the] civil justice that she’s entitled to, that was [violated] due to the negligence and misconduct of the fraternity, and [to] make things safer for other women on campus and even in a more broad sense, across the country,” Fierberg said. “Fraternities…have significant problems with respect to sexual violence.”
Roth stressed the severity and prevalence of sexual assault.
“It’s a horrible thing, obviously, for the survivor of an attack, and it’s a horrible thing for the community,” Roth said. “A lot of people would like to imagine Wesleyan as a place where these things don’t happen. And yet we know, rationally, these things do happen at Wesleyan, and [on] other college campuses…. I do think sexual violence is one of the ways in which women are denied full benefits to an education. I’m not alone in that. It’s a legal standard, but it’s also a…cultural fact. And so I think it’s really important that we create a climate in which people can report these crimes.”
The lawsuit has given rise to debate on campus about the abolishment of fraternity houses; Fierberg noted that this was not the survivor’s intention.
“I don’t think she’s asked for [the University to abolish fraternities],” Fierberg said.
Roth stated that he does not think that abolishing fraternities would be the answer to reducing sexual assault on campus, but he would be open to the discussion.
“People have urged me to take bold action,” Roth said. “If there was a bold action that I think would really dramatically reduce the incidence of sexual violence, I would’ve taken it already. It’s not obvious, actually, that closing fraternities…would do away with sexual violence on campus. But if we conclude after talking it through…with students and alumni and faculty and staff that we would be a better place without single-sex residence halls, fraternities, or whatever they’re called, we will take action. But it’s not something we should do just so that we feel we’re doing something.”
Fierberg asserted that the survivor is making a courageous stand by suing the fraternity.
“[Sexual assault] is an issue that affects young people on college campuses across the country, and she’s making a brave step in trying to resolve some of these issues for herself and others,” Fierberg said.
*Editor’s note: The Argus does not typically publish the names of survivors of alleged sexual assaults. However, because the survivor in question has spoken openly through her lawyer about her desire not to remain anonymous, the Editors-in-Chief felt that to exclude her name from this article would be an omission.
Additional Reporting by News Editor Tess Morgan.