The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 26th

Op-ed: Loud words, silent university

“There is nothing worse than a dry snatch.” These eight words were reportedly spoken by David Hagan at an event hosted this semester by the UNC Interfraternity Council. These words are misogynistic, vulgar and inexcusable. According to anonymous accounts from staff working at the event, the speaker “continually used disrespectful and obscene language that demeaned women and made light of serious issues such as alcohol abuse and sexual assault.” 

Words have consequences, and events like the IFC speaker impact our community in immeasurable ways. These words are reflective of a broader culture of violence and oppression — they normalize violent actions in our community. We are righteously outraged at this behavior by the IFC. The system must be held responsible and face consequences. The Campus Y recently released a statement, available on its Facebook page, that clearly outlines our shared demands for accountability from IFC. 

From hazing to alcohol abuse and sexual assault, the IFC fraternities at UNC have caused irreparable harm to our community for decades. There are broader implications to the rhetoric normalized by the IFC speaker. We write this letter to underscore how the IFC’s speaker was one instance in the long historical arc of violence at Carolina — one that has been maintained by decades of institutional inaction. 

We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is forcing us to look clear-eyed at all of our societal ills. The manifestations of oppression and violence at Carolina is one of them. Furthermore, as the University shared in a campus communication on April 28, there is an urgent need to address violence during this crisis because “social distancing guidelines and closures can create an increased risk of violence for people isolated with abusive partners or family members and can create barriers to resources for people who need support.” 

Collectively, we represent a team of students who are committed to preventing violence on campus. Several of us spent this year serving on the Chancellor’s “pre-coalition” to make up for the complete lack of implementation of recommendations developed by the University’s “Prevention Task Force” from 2015-2017. The University notoriously forms these pseudo-groups to “listen” to students. The cycle continues through forming “task forces,” “working groups,” “coalitions,” and “listening,” “hearing concerns,” “analyzing data,” yet never mobilizing to action. 

Meanwhile, our community members are suffering. The numbers alone are damning. A 2019 AAU survey showed that 45 percent of undergraduate women in their fourth year or higher experience sexual assault or misconduct while at UNC. We also know that students with marginalized identities are more likely to experience forms of harassment and abuse. The rates are unacceptable. 

The visceral impact of violence is lost in data and statistics, but there is a real human toll. We have personally lived the impact of misogynistic attitudes, comments and behavior, enabled by mindsets similar to the IFC’s speaker. Being student leaders has given us a unique insight to how violence manifests itself on our campus.

We’ve supported students who left organizations due to harassment. We’ve embraced our friends who leave campus entirely due to assault. We’ve seen the resilience and bravery of survivors in the aftermath of violence. But most importantly, we believe there is potential to dismantle the toxic masculinity and other systems of oppression that foster violence in the first place. This is what we ask for from each other today  — an urgent and renewed commitment to call out, challenge and dismantle these harmful behaviors when you see them. This requires both personal ownership from each member of our community and an institutional commitment from the University. 

In February, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz shared this with us in an email: “Our $2 million investment, combined with new leadership positions such as our Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity & Risk Management, is reflective of our University-wide commitment to violence prevention. With these investments, we intend for our efforts to be comprehensive and touch every unit across campus. Next month, I will formally charge the Violence Prevention Advisory Group.” 

We have yet to see the Chancellor follow through with this promise to charge the Advisory Group or make any comprehensive strides to expand violence prevention. There is no excuse for further administrative inaction. Data repeatedly shows that violence has not gone away during this pandemic. 

Student efforts to prevent identity-based violence at Carolina are not waning — if anything, they are multiplying. We humbly stand on the shoulders of incredible students who chartered the way for anti-violence activism on campus, but there is more work to be done. 

Join us in our demand that the IFC dismantle violence in their organizations and community by signing this petition. It is critical to have accountability from the IFC, from our University, from our community and from each other. 

The IFC speaker’s words reverberated loudly on campus. The University’s deafening silence will not be tolerated. 

Let’s raise our chorus of voices together against violence.  

In solidarity,

Lucy Russell, Class of 2020. Former President, UNC Institute of Politics. Founding Member, Coalition Against Violence.

Alli Whitenack, Class of 2020. Former President, Healthy Heels Ambassadors 2019-2020; Former Co-President, Campus Y 2018-2019; Founding Member, Coalition Against Violence. 

Hannah Day, Class of 2020. Former Chair of Carolina Advocates for Gender Equity (CAGE). Founding Member, Coalition Against Violence.

Thilini Weerakkody, Class of 2021. Campus Y Co-President 2020-2021. Current Member, Coalition Against Violence. 

Veda Patil, Class of 2021. Campus Y Co-President 2020-2021. Former Chair of Programming, UNC Institute of Politics. 

Shareen El Naga, Class of 2021. Healthy Heels Ambassadors Co-President 2020-2021. Current Member, Coalition Against Violence. 

Claire Molloy, Class of 2022. Healthy Heels Ambassadors Co-President 2020- 2021. Current Member, Coalition Against Violence.

Kayla Pope, Class of 2022. Sexual Violence Policy Intern. Current Member, Coalition Against Violence. 

Anwar Boutayba, Class of 2023. Campus Y Bonner Leader. Current Member, Coalition Against Violence.

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