Nebraska fraternity suspended for alleged rape of 17-year-old

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity has a long history of inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment. Now, the chapter has been suspended again after a member allegedly raped a minor on the night of the first day of classes. 

The alleged rape took place at the fraternity’s off-campus housing shortly before 4 a.m. on Tuesday, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police, who were also responding to a call about a “wild party,” according to the police’s daily crime log. The alleged offense happened sometime overnight. 

“All allegations of sexual assault are taken seriously and investigated to the extent possible. We are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident, a suspect has been identified, and Fiji members are cooperating with the investigation. At this time no arrests have been made and we cannot comment further on an ongoing police investigation,” police said in a statement to CBS News.

Phi Gamma Delta did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment. 

UNLPD Chief Hassan Ramzah told the university’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan, that the alleged sexual assault involved a 17-year-old female student and a 19-year-old male student who is a member of the fraternity, commonly known as Fiji. The identity of the victim has not been released. 

The survivor told officers that she and an 18-year-old acquaintance had gone to the fraternity house, the newspaper reported. The alleged assault occurred after the acquaintance left, police told the newspaper.  The university confirmed the details of the case reported by the campus newspaper but declined to otherwise comment.

“Given the traumatic nature of sexual assault, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department works closely with the victim-survivor to investigate the incident,” Ramzah told the Daily Nebraskan. “And given the sensitive nature, we work with the victim at their pace in investigation, not behind or ahead, but with them.” 

Classes only started at the campus Monday, but hundreds have gathered daily outside of the Fiji house to protest the fraternity’s standing with the university. Videos show students chanting “This is not the only fraternity that has done this” and demanding justice. At one point, the hundreds of students present at the protest held their fists up for alleged victims and held a moment of silence.

A petition circulated online this week demanding that the university ban the fraternity from the campus for good. The petition claims that 13 women have been raped by members of the fraternity. Several women commented on the petition saying that they were assaulted or raped at the fraternity’s house. More than 291,700 people have signed the petition. 

One group, called ShutDownFiji, has posted about the outrage and the alleged incidents on Instagram. The group posted a photo of Fiji’s pledge rules. Among other things, the rules say, “respect the ladies,” “no fagetry,” “no interracial dating,” “no crying to Mom,” “no being a pu***,” and “no Mexicans.” 

University Chancellor Ronnie Green announced Wednesday the fraternity is still under probation for “previous violations” and that its operations are suspended while the investigation is ongoing. The fraternity’s house has also been closed.

Green said Thursday that sexual assaults were reported to campus police this week and that the police were investigating “each of them.” Only one assault — the one at the fraternity house — is included in the university’s crime logs. Greene said the university has a “responsibility” to follow the legal guidance and process for investigating sexual assault and to “protect the rights of all involved.” 

“Sexual assault is heinous and should never happen. I wish we lived in a world where it didn’t,” Green said. “…We all wish that resolution of these cases could come swiftly. But often, it’s not as simple as ‘locking them up.’  The guarantee of due process is part of our Constitution and core to who we are as Americans.” 

He said that the university is working hard to “do better” to help prevent sexual assaults. 

“And if you’re a young man who somehow thinks this is cool — think again. It is unacceptable,” Green said. “No means no. And if you violate that, and we can prove it — you have no place on our campus.”

The university’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta has a long history of misconduct on campus. 

The chapter was accused of sexual misconduct in October 2019, according to police. The case is still open. 

Fiji was suspended from the university from March 2017 to May 2020 after a university investigation uncovered a history of inappropriate behavior, including “a pattern of sexually harassing conduct.” The harassment was not the “focal point” of the suspension, the university said, but added that they did find fraternity members had engaged in multiple incidents. 

The suspension meant that the fraternity chapter was no longer recognized on campus. Fiji was only able to petition for reinstatement in 2019 and could not move into university-approved housing until 2020. They were required to undergo training for alcohol and drugs, sexual misconduct and prevention, hazing prevention and women’s issues, the university said in 2017. 

Dozens of cases of sexual assault have been reported to the university. From January 1, 2016 to August 27 this year, there have been 148 reports of sexual offenses, including rape, attempted rape and sexual assault. Several of the alleged incidents took place at fraternity houses. Eighty of the cases from the past five years remain open.