Update: Gail Hanson responds to EI emails and petition
Clarification and correction appended.
The University is looking to enhance existing programs that address sexual violence awareness, according to an email from Gail Hanson, vice president of Campus Life, that responded to petitions that addressed the EI emails and increase awareness of sexual violence,.
“We thank all who have signed a petition supporting these proposals,” Hanson said in the email. “We share your outrage and concern over the content of the emails recently released and the behavior they describe.”
Hanson repeated the overtones of her previous memos as well as President Neil Kerwin’s.
“The university is taking swift and deliberate action to address each of the specific allegations raised by the recent release of emails,” she said in a statement. “Investigations are being conducted by Public Safety, in consultation with law enforcement authorities, and by the Office of Campus Life.”
Hanson went on to summarize existing support groups that the University uses for sexual violence awareness training, and praised groups that have come out against the content of the EI emails.
“What I said in my letter is that we know there’s an interest in not having anyone who needs advocacy have to wait for it, or not be able to have it there when they need it,” Hanson said in an interview to The Eagle.
Hanson mentioned Eagle Summit, Alchohol.edu, Greek Life Orientation, Student Activities, Student Athlete workshops and Men of Strength as programs that have elements sexual violence training, and said that she is open for ideas for improvement.
“The answer might not necessarily be another full-time staff member, but if it is, the president has assured me that we’ll look at the resources to accomplish that,” she said.
Hanson said that there is already training for new members of fraternities and sororities and members of athletic teams that are required.
“I wanted people to know that the fundamental stuff is in place,” Hanson said to The Eagle. “We don’t need to build things where there has been nothing before, we need to enhance and assure ourselves of the effectiveness of what we’ve got. We’re recommitting to refinement, improvement, getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t work, replacing it with stuff that does and making everything that we have operate the best it can possibly operate.”
Hanson suggested in her statement that she will work with the AU Club Council and SG to look at the request to have mandatory sexual assault education for executive board members of AU student clubs.
Hanson encouraged students to provide suggestions and ideas for improvement, and said that she would continue to update the campus community in regards to the ongoing investigation.
“Know that whatever we do, we’re committed to continuous improvement,” Hanson said. “If the people who have experienced those trainings think there are ways that we can do them better so the messages are stickier, and convert to behavior change and attitude, then we’re very open to that, but I wanted to make sure in this climate that students understand that everyone who comes to Eagle Summit, accompanied by their orientation leader goes to a session that addresses sexual assault and deals with it in terms of awareness and resources.”
Students called for changes to the administration’s response to the recent EI email leaks and for increased awareness of sexual violence on campus as they chanted and marched to President Neil Kerwin’s office, where they delivered a petition to Chief of Staff David Taylor.
The students began the protest around 12:30 p.m. with a march around the Quad while holding cardboard signs and chanting, “E-I-E-I-O, this is students saying no,” and “End the silence, stop the violence.”
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More than 50 students participated in the protest and were followed by Public Safety officers, who later blocked the group’s access to the president’s office and the Mary Graydon Center. The protest ended at the side entrance of MGC at 1 p.m.
The protest, organized by AU No More Silence, was geared towards spreading awareness of rape culture and pushing students, faculty and administration to pursue action against sexual violence, according to the group’s facebook event for the protest.
The petition, which was addressed to Gail Hanson, vice president for Campus Life, and Kerwin, was hosted on Change.org and had over 1,500 signitures as of April 24.
The petition included numerous immediate and long-term demands.
- Clarification of who in administration is involved with the investigation and increased transparency
Interim suspension of all persons involved in the leaked emails
- To have the university officially recognize EI involvement as “gang activity” and take disciplinary action against brothers wearing letters on campus
- “Expulsion of all EI members that have discussed being present, or condoning sexual violence, assault, battery, slander and all other actions relevant to physical, sexual, emotional and all other
forms of abuse”
- Employment of a full-time survivors advocate and additional administrative positions that are specialized in dealing with cases of sexual violence to support victims of sexual and gendered violence
- Mandatory sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention training at Eagle Summit
- Semesterly comprehensive and mandatory sexual assault prevention and bystander training for all of social and professional Greek life
- Mandatory sexual assault education for club executive board members
“I can guarantee you that it will be a part of the ongoing discussion we will have in the days and weeks to come,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of work to do, not just here, but all over the country.”
Gail Hanson, vice president of Campus Life, addressed criticism of the University’s handling of EI and outlined the administration’s planned response to alleged EI misconduct in a campus-wide memo Thursday morning.
“First, I want to reiterate that AU takes the allegations seriously,” Hanson said in the statement. “Assault, sexual assault, bullying, underage and binge drinking, illicit drug use, misogyny, homophobia, and racism are antithetical to our values. We will address them head on.”
According to Hanson, the University is currently conducting an investigation to determine whether to seek assistance from law enforcement.
Hanson urged patience on the matter, adding that the University would take the time it needs to pursue the legal process without sacrificing the ability to hold individuals accountable.
“Those accused are presumed innocent until found responsible or proven guilty,” Hanson said.
Further updates would be reported on the Student Conduct page on the AU website.
Hanson addressed allegations that the University has not addressed concerns regarding EI.
“The university has warned students to avoid joining or engaging with this group and also warned parents in orientations and in writing,” according to the statement.
Hanson commended the Panhellenic Association for announcing that they will begin biannual bystander trainings, saying that the it’s important for communities to work with the administration.
“To succeed we must work together to prevent and confront behaviors that are not consistent with our values and mission,” Hanson said.
The Officers of the Interfraternity Council as well as all National Interfraternity Council Chapter Presidents denounced EI and reiterated the organization’s rejection by AU greek life in a statement released by the IFC on Wednesday.
The statement called the alleged authors of the leaked documents, EI, a “scourge” and criticized the AU administration’s handling of the disbanded organization.
“The Interfraternity Council vehemently condemns the behavior displayed in recent emails from the EI organization,” the statement said. “For those who continue to view this as a fraternity and sorority issue, please know that the IFC leadership and community have long viewed EI as an entirely separate entity.”
The IFC additionally criticized the University’s current and past handling of EI-related incidents, and blamed AU’s administration for failing to step in after repeated infractions since the organization was officially unrecognized in 2001.
“The ultimate onus falls on the American University administration for failing to effectively intervene over the past 13 years,” according to the statement. “AU’s lack of substantial action has resulted in an isolated, yet continually existing culture of misogyny and violence that is only now being publicly recognized.”
The IFC vowed further action in cooperation with AU’s leadership and greek life.
“We pledge to do all that is necessary,” according to IFC’s statement, “to forever remove this scourge from the American University.”
The Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Fraternity also released an official statement on April 20 in reaction to the leaked emails.
DPE President Ryden Ishida affirmed the organization’s stance against sexual harassment and rape culture.
“Our top concern is the safety of survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape,” Ishida said in a statement via email, “and we are currently in the process of planning future events to both increase awareness and decrease support of rape culture.”
Sagatom Saha, DPE Fraternity president-elect, additionally contributed a statement, which, according to Saha, represented the collective opinion of DPE brothers.
“We felt that the statement was necessary because this fraternity has friends and brothers who are survivors of sexual assault,” Saha said. “We continue to hold each other accountable and plan to increase our involvement in on-campus activities like Take Back the Night. A number of our brothers are already engaging in such events.”
DPE previously released a statement on April 18 via the group’s official Facebook page, expressing its disapproval of EI’s alleged actions and expressing support for those harmed by its release.
“Our Brothers condemn these attitudes and sentiments more than words can express. American University is not a place where such behavior should be tolerated, plan and simple,” DPE said via Facebook. “We encourage everyone to reflect not only on their personal thoughts regarding sexual assault, but on what they are willing to accept here on campus.”
The fraternity believed it was necessary to release a statement in order to stand in solidarity with DPE brothers and its friends who are survivors of sexual assault, Saha said in an email on behalf of the fraternity. The fraternity participated in Bro-Choice Visibility Week earlier in the month in support of female reproductive rights, according to another post on DPE’s official Facebook page.
“We continue to hold each other accountable and plan to increase our involvement in on-campus activities like Take Back the Night,” Saha said in an email.
DPE brothers also hope to work with the University next year to establish effective ways deal with issues with fraternity and sorority life, consent and sexual assault prevention, he said in an email. Several DPE brother already participate in sexual assault awareness events and work for either Student Activities or the Wellness center.
“This is not just a women’s issue but a campus issue and a human issue,” Saha said in an email. “We’re glad to be part of the dialogue.”
Disclosure: Managing Editor of News, Suzanne Gaber, is a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Sorority
A person formerly affiliated with EI reached out to The Eagle on April 21, saying the content in the leaked emails was taken out of context and condemning the language in the emails, much of which insults women and sexual minorities.
“I really feel strongly against the language that is used,” he said.
The person, who is familiar with the listserv, also said that although he felt the language used is disgusting, he could not speak for other members of the group.
The leaker of the emails intends to damage reputations of the people mentioned in the emails, the source said.
The former member said that while the content is objectionable, this type of language is an “epidemic” in college fraternities.
“It’s just disgusting,” he said.
He added that some of the incidents mentioned in the emails were not portrayed correctly, and while a member of the group, he was unaware of any cases of sexual assault within EI.
He said he originally joined the group because of the freedom available to EI. As an unrecognized student group, EI is not subject to the rules applied to recognized AU greek life and established their own rules and guidelines.
These group rules strictly condemn sexual assault and violence, according to the source.
Eagle staff writer Heather Mongilio contributed to this update.
President Neil Kerwin sent an email to the University community on April 21, saying that the conduct mentioned in recent email leaks required “immediate attention” from the University.
Kerwin’s message did not mention EI directly, only referencing “a group that is not recognized by the university.”
“The allegations include high risk and harmful behaviors that not only conflict with our values and standards, but also may represent breaches of our student conduct code and of the law,” Kerwin said in the statement.
Kerwin added in the statement that further communication from Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson would come soon.
This is the second of recent notices to the AU community over this alleged student conduct, after Hanson sent out a message to the AU community on April 18, saying that the University was investigating the content of leaked emails.
A group of concerned students, organized under the name No More Silence, created a petition with a list of demands for the administration in response to accusations of misconduct by EI members.
The petition on Change.org, titled “No More Silence: Demand Sexual Assault Prevention and Consequences for Epsilon Iota,” is addressed towards Gail Hanson, vice president of Campus Life, and AU President Neil Kerwin.
The petition has gathered 252 signers as of April 20, according to Change.org. The goal is to gather as many signatures as possible before presenting the petition to the administration, Amanda Gould, a member of No More Silence, said.
No More Silence believes that the presence of EI members is “a clear threat to the safety and well-being of American University students,” according to the petition.
The members of No More Silence called for the expulsion of alleged EI members who contributed to the emails and text messages leaked late last week.
“AU students who contributed to those emails (especially those discussing illegal activities, trivializing sexual assault, and using misogynist, sexist, racist, and homophobic language) should not be students at this university,” according to the petition. “By perpetrating these heinous acts, they have proven themselves unworthy of being members of our community.”
The group’s short-term goals include securing a transparent and thorough inquiry by campus officials. The group also requests that the University release an official statement asking the University to recognize involvement in EI as a gang activity.
In the long run, No More Silence also seeks to make changes to campus policy in order to prevent sexual assault, according to the petition. The proposed changes include mandatory assault prevention and bystander training at Eagle Summit, the hiring of a full time Survivors Advocate, as well as mandatory, semesterly training for all social and professional Greek life.
Students will host a discussion on April 20 at 11 a.m. in response to EI’s alleged violence against women and homophobic, sexist and racist comments made about AU students in the leaked EI documents.
The event will be held in Ward 2 by students in the group No More Silence: Demand Consequences for EI to likely organize student action to increase preventive actions through the University to deter sexual violence on-campus and to expand resources for survivors, Abby Dunn said.
The Facebook group was created as a forum for concerned students to discuss allegations and organize a student response to EI’s alleged behavior, Dunn, one of the page’s three administrators, said. Dunn is also Student Government comptroller elect and member of the PEERs program in the Wellness Center that works on sexual assault prevention.
“This is not just about EI or one group but how we talk about sexual violence,” Dunn said.
The group does not have a formal title or leader, but Dunn said she hopes to see it evolve into a coalition of students who promote action against sexual violence.
The Facebook group was originally closed but was later made secret, after students became concerned that EI brothers could potentially see that they were affiliated with the content, Dunn said. Students can be added to the group by messaging Dunn on Facebook, she said.
“The fact of the matter is that sexual assault does happen on our campus,” Dunn said.
Some AU students have changed their profile picture and cover photo to a graphic that states “I WILL NOT BE SILENT,” with the “e” of “be” and “i” of “silent” highlighted to reference the fraternity EI.
“It is not productive to call out all fraternities, because not all fraternities are trying to perpetuate sexual violence,” Dunn said.
The movement is still in its very early planning stages and it is hard to tell what the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting will be or what course of action students will take, Dunn said.
“We should all believe in making this a safer community for each other,” Dunn said.
Two Tumblr blogs published censored versions of leaked alleged EI emails and cell phone conversations that were released in full to a small portion of AU students and administration on April 17. Trigger warnings are posted at the top of both blogs.
The correspondences include threats of rape, accusations of violence against other fraternities and women, plans to intoxicate females, use of several illegal drugs, plans to swap controlled substances and use of derogatory terms against LGBT individuals.
“We are outraged by the reprehensible content of this material,” Gail Hanson, vice president of campus life at American University, said in a memorandum released by email on April 18. “It could not be more contrary to American University’s values and standards.”
The Fratergate AU blog released highly censored versions of the documents on April 17 that redacted names, phone numbers or emails of any of the alleged EI brothers or other AU students mentioned in correspondences.
On April 18 and 19, a blog called Protect AU Women released copies of the documents that only removed the names of the females that EI brother discussed in the leaked documents.
Not all 70 pages have been posted on the Protect AU Women blog.
“This is not even half of the posts. More will be posted over the next few days,” according to the blog.
The documents range from 2012 to 2014 and are a limited selection of all the correspondences believed to be between EI brothers. The Eagle has not been able to reach current and former members of EI who are included in the documents, despite emailing and calling several brothers for comment.
It is still unknown who originally leaked the documents to the AU community.
“The material is under intense analysis by university officials, with attention to the statutes and regulations that guide our behavior,” said Hanson in the April 18 memorandum.
The Student Government denounced the actions mentioned in the recently released emails believed to be from EI and urged the administration to take action against the attitudes in them, according to a SG statement released on April 18.
The statement was signed by current SG executive board members, including President Pat Kelly, Vice President Ray Bowman, Secretary Rosemary Cipriano and Comptroller Ben Johnson, as well as those elected to the executive board to begin terms in May.
“American University needs to move forward with cultural and institutional changes to address the address the defensive and demeaning actions mentioned in these emails,” the statement said. “There needs to be mandatory preventative action on the part of the university that facilitates progress on these issues in a meaningful way.”
The statement also listed resources for sexual assault prevention, including those available through AU’s Wellness Center and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Many of the leaked emails mention possible non-consensual sexual encounters. In the correspondences, alleged EI brothers referenced women who were potentially too intoxicated to legally give consent for sexual activity defined by AU’s standards of consent.
“I just think that more intimate pre-games where the girls would feel more relaxed and safe would be such a good idea to get the bitches into the right state of intoxication so that plows will be raining all over the place,” according to one email, dated March 20, 2014.
The SG statement denounced the language in the emails that suggested potential sexual assault.
“The behaviors described in these emails are inconsistent with the values of American University, the campus community, and recognized Greek organizations,” the statement said.
Update: Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Gail Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life, officially commented late Friday on the leaked alleged EI documents.
In an email memorandum sent to the AU community, Hanson condemned the contents of the leaked emails and text messages.
“We are outraged by the reprehensible content of this material,” Hanson said. “It could not be more contrary to American University’s values and standards.”
Hanson additionally assured members of the community that the leaks and the allegations against EI members would be further looked into.
“We assure our campus community that we are pursuing these matters deliberately and expeditiously,” said Hanson, “so that violations of the law are addressed and university conduct code standards are upheld.”
The AU Office of General Counsel sent out an email to some members of the AU community warning against a fraudulent email address on April 17.
An email was sent from “firstname.lastname@example.org” and asked that the original sender of the leaked alleged EI correspondence forward any other materials to the address.
The fake email was also sent to all people who received the original leak.
“Please be advised that we are taking the matter very seriously and will be following up before the school term has ended,” the email said.
Justin Perrillo, assistant general counsel for AU, later sent a warning from the legal department’s actual address, email@example.com. He warned that the email was “deceptive” and that it should not be treated as official communication from AU.
“These emails are fraudulent and deceptive. We ask that you do not reply to this false address,” he said in the email.
Update: 2:07 p.m.
Curtis Burrill, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority life, declined to comment on the situation.
The AU administration is addressing claims made in several leaked documents relating to the disbanded fraternity Epsilon Iota.
EI officially lost their charter on Feb. 19, 2001, The Eagle previously reported.
“The university is cooperating with local law enforcement on a series of incidents involving a small number of students who have been engaged in illegal activity and high risk behavior,” according to a statement released via email by Camille Lepre, assistant vice president for Communications and Media.
An email sent to members of the AU community included more than 70 pages of emails, texts, scanned documents and the names of EI members. The email was sent by an anonymous email address under the name “Worthy Keeper,” which has since been deleted, according to an error message returned when attempting to contact for comment.
The email’s anonymous sender additionally urged students and faculty to take action against members of EI, including messages such as “To AU Campus Life: TAKE ACTION AGAINST THESE STUDENTS” and “This is not AU. This must be stopped” in addition to several pleas to campus authorities to launch an investigation into the allegations, according to the email sent to The Eagle.
“The conduct we’re addressing is contrary to the university’s values and standards,” Lepre said in an email, “and is not reflective of the student body in general.”
Editor’s note: The current story is ongoing and will be updated as more information is revealed. The Eagle cannot currently connect the emails to Epsilon Iota.
Staff Writer Chloe Johnson contributed to this ongoing story.
A previous version of this article indicated that the meeting on April 20 was an open discussion when it was not. It has been changed to reflect that it was a discussion, not an open forum.
A previous version of this article called the protesting group “No More Silence.” It has been corrected to AU No More Silence.
A previous version of this article said that the AU legal department sent out the email. It has been clarified to use the formal name of the department.
A previous version of this article suggested that the emails were from EI brothers.The article has been changed to reflect that the documents are allegedly from EI brothers. However, the emails were confirmed on April 20 to be from EI members.