Approximately 60 University of Mississippi students gathered outside of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house Thursday night to protest alleged incidents of sexual assault. Over the course of an hour and a half, students stood in demonstration holding signs that read “protecting rapists is not brotherhood” and “coercion is not consent” while chanting “no means no.”
The protestors gathered after allegations of a student in a fraternity sexually assaulting other students were made public on social media. Jackie Stewart-Kuhn, a sophomore international studies major, said she was protesting because she heard about allegations against the student.
“Honestly, frats in general have a penchant for covering up assaults, but I think because this came out, it was like…’we have basic information as to what happened, so let’s show people that we support them,’” Stewart-Kuhn said.
Members of the University Police Department and members of the UM First Amendment support team were present to ensure student safety and maintain order.
“We’re just blocking the road off for safety,” Lieutenant Adam Peacock said.
In addition to condemning the alleged sexual assault, some students, like accounting major Hannah Holmes, were there to raise awareness about the culture surrounding sexual assault and rape within fraternities and across college campuses.
“I just think that there’s a lot of stigmas around frats in general about just, like, sexual assault and rape. I just think there needs to be more awareness in Greek life. It’s definitely something that all campuses should be aware of, not just Ole Miss,” she said.
Holmes said sexual assault is something people get away with too easily, “just scot-free like it doesn’t matter.”
Among all graduate and undergraduate students, 13% have experienced rape or sexual assault while attending college, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. RAINN also reports that 20% of female student victims report to law enforcement.
“I think that just being here, even if it’s a small group of people, shows that people really care about the issue and that it needs to be brought to higher ups,” Holmes said.
SAE Communications and Public Relations Manager Johnny Sao wrote in an email that the national headquarters denounces all acts of sexual violence.
“Violence in any form does not represent the Fraternity’s values as defined by our creed, The True Gentlemen,” Sao wrote. “We are committed to the well-being of our members, guests and their respective communities. Our staff will continue to work with our chapters, university officials, and local alumni leaders to reinforce these values.”
Members of Ole Miss SAE declined to comment.