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Hundreds Of KU Students Protest Repeatedly At A Fraternity Over Sexual Assault Allegation

A bus on the KU campus
Abigail Censky
Kansas News Service
A bus on the KU campus, where an allegation of sexual assault sparked protests at a frat.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — An allegation of sexual assault at a University of Kansas fraternity has brought hundreds of students to protests outside the house, incited calls for its removal and prompted investigations by the university and by city police.

The reported sexual assault over the weekend ignited protests Monday and Tuesday night at the Phi Kappa Psi house near the KU campus.

Some students on the campus Wednesday voiced support for the protests.

“I think it's good that we're not letting the university cover it up and let the fraternities get away with it,” KU student Annabelle Bitner said. “They've done a really good job of keeping it pretty peaceful, despite it being such a violent crime.”

An online petition calling for Phi Kappa Psi to be removed from campus had garnered more than 17,000 signatures by Wednesday morning.

“I personally would like to see the house be condemned,” student Jonny Wagner said. “I would like to see another fraternity move into that house. But unfortunately, I think that's not going to happen.”

A wall outside the frat house had been spray painted with the phrases “no means no” and “F--- Phi Psi.”

The Phi Kappa Psi building near the KU campus on Wednesday.
Abigail Censky
Kansas News Service
The Phi Kappa Psi building near the KU campus on Wednesday.

A statement said the fraternity “became aware of allegations against a new undergraduate member” surrounding events Saturday night.

“Phi Kappa Psi takes these allegations very seriously and will fully cooperate with law enforcement,” the statement said.

KU officials said the university and local law enforcement are investigating.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and Vice Provost Tammara Durham issued a letter to students Tuesday saying the university has processes to investigate sexual assault and hold individuals accountable.

“The university takes seriously all reports of sexual assault and is unwaveringly committed to the health and safety of our students,” they said in the statement.

During protests Monday and Tuesday evenings outside the fraternity, demonstrators chanted “We believe her” and held signs reading “No means no” and “Your silence is compliance.”

The Lawrence Police Department posted a statement online saying no arrests were made during the protests, and no injuries were reported. Police say private security staff used pepper spray on some protesters.

That department also acknowledged that reports of a sexual assault drew the protestors to Phi Kappa Psi.

“In order to protect the privacy of victims,” the police said in the online statement, “we do not comment or provide details about sexual assault incidents or their associated investigations.”

KU student body president Niya McAdoo used social media to urge students to demand action from university officials:

A 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities found 26% of undergraduate women at KU said they had been sexually assaulted in college. The survey found 15% said they had been raped and most of those students had not reported it.

In response to that survey, KU said in a statement that there had been progress in areas like informing students how to report sexual harassment claims. But the school said there was “a long way to go” in other areas.

Last year, an investigation at KU found an athletic massage therapist on contract had inappropriately touched at least six women. The therapist eventually faced more than six criminal counts.

Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service contributed to this story.

Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT or email her at perez@kmuw.org.

Abigail Censky is the political reporter for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @AbigailCensky or email her at abigailcensky (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

It’s my job to explain statewide politics to our audience with clarity and context. Sometimes that means tracking developments in the Legislature and shining light on things that alter the laws, the taxes and the services of state government. Other times it means traveling throughout the state to amplify the voices and stories of Kansans. And, critically, I strive to hold our public officials accountable. Reach me at abigailcensky@kcur.org.
Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Before coming to KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Eagle, where she covered schools and a variety of other topics.
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