By Olivia Ali and Jazmin Orozco
In the interest of transparency, The Nevada Sagebrush felt it necessary to inform readers of Jazmin Orozco’s connection to the document discussed in this article. The document was found by Orozco, one of the reporters of this article and a journalism student at UNR. While debating whether it was ethical for Orozco to help write this article, it was decided it was acceptable as she is a journalist who found information and felt it needed to be distributed, as all journalists do when researching a story.
Content warning: The following story discusses sexual assault and violence that can be traumatizing for some readers.
In early October, a document belonging to the Pi-Iota chapter of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Nevada, Reno, was found open on a Knowledge Center computer connected to a closed Facebook group for members of TKE.
The document was addressed to pledges — new members that have yet to be initiated — of the fraternity and contained songs, forms and other information about the fraternity. In the post that the document was linked on, the pledges were told not to share the document or they would be dropped from TKE immediately.
The songs in the document depicted images and themes of drinking, sexual misconduct and assault. Some songs depict violence and assault against other fraternities and sororities
“Circumcise a Sig Ep with a jagged piece of glass/ Ram a rusty bayonet up a Phi Delt’s [a**],” says the lyrics to one of the songs, “Apollo’s Raiders”.
Two songs specifically mentioned the Pi Beta Phi and Tri Delta sororities, which have chapters on campus.
“I stuck my finger in a Pi Beta Phi/ And the Pi Beta Phi said my oh my/ Take it out, take it out, take it out/ Remove it,” said the lyrics of “Pi Beta Phi”.
The President of the Nevada Alpha chapter of Pi Beta Phi provided a statement to the Nevada Sagebrush in response to the document.
“Members of Pi Beta Phi are expected to recognize the dignity and respect due to all individuals,” the statement said. “We recently learned that Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity negatively referenced Pi Beta Phi through song lyrics, and we are concerned with the impact of this demeaning vocabulary on women in our campus community. Our chapter supports internal accountability measures taken by Tau Kappa Epsilon, and we will continue to support their efforts to educate the University of Nevada Reno fraternity and sorority community. Further, the Nevada Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi is committed to being part of the solution to create a more inclusive campus culture and an environment that promotes respect and empowerment for women.”
The “Three [W****s] From Tri-Delt” song says “Three Tekes went up in January/ And didn’t come back ‘til June!/[…] Rattle your nuts upon her guts/ And join the slimey crew”.
Tri-Delta and the Interfraternity Council did not respond to the Nevada Sagebrush’s request for comment.
Songs titled “Get Your Girlfriend” and “Yo Ho” depict sexual assault and rape.
“When she starts to shake and quiver/ Wondering ‘what’s a going on?’/ Tell her it’s the secret handshake/ of Tau Kappa Epsilon,” the song lyrics to “Get Your Girlfriend” read.
“Yo Ho” describes a TKE and a woman progressively getting more sexually involved until the woman dies from “sucking all them Tekes [c***s]” and them digging her body up to “[f***] her again”.
After the songs, the document had two separate forms — the first was a sheet with interview questions for members of the fraternity and the second was titled “House Hours Sign-off Sheet”. The back page was titled “9th Paragraph” and outlined the “essential elements of true brotherhood”.
The president of the Pi-Iota Chapter of TKE, Masen Confetti, declined the Nevada Sagebrush’s request for comment on the origins, uses and possession of the document.
The TKE national organization suspended the chapter on Thursday, Nov. 1, after learning of the document.
“Tau Kappa Epsilon has temporarily suspended our Pi-Iota chapter at the University of Nevada-Reno, while we investigate the alleged disgusting actions that do not represent the values and culture of Tau Kappa Epsilon,” said Chief Information Officer Alex Baker in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush. “We are partnering with the university during this time, and will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life — the office that oversees the Interfraternity Council that TKE is managed by — said they did not know about the existence of these songs or the lyrics.
“Most songs that I know of are actually more-so connected to rituals,” said Megan Pepper, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the university. “We obviously don’t know what those are within certain organizations because rituals are the parts that are secret and we attempt to do our best to respect that.”
While the Office of FSL does require oversight of activities for new member education and programs, documents such as the one found are not required to be turned in.
“We don’t require that any of that documentation is turned into us during the recruitment process,” Pepper said. “What we do require is that of what their new member education and initiation activities look like.”
However, oversight by the Office of FSL on initiation and pledging materials may be strengthened after the investigation of the TKE document, according to Pepper.
The Office of FSL has no knowledge of “dirty songs” in other Greek life organizations on campus. The songs in the document from TKE were the first known on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus, according to Pepper.
Regardless of university affiliation and recognition, Pepper says the songs do not reflect Greek life as a whole.
“We don’t condone any of it, obviously, ” Pepper said. “It was disturbing to us as well and I think us as an office are committed to addressing this community-wide, given where we’re at in society.”
Pepper said the results of the investigation will determine TKE’s punishment — which could range from educational training to losing its affiliation with the university and/or their national chapter.
The 2018 University Relationship Agreement, which recognized fraternities and sororities must adhere to, states in return for recognition, “fraternity and sorority chapters will sponsor only those activities that do not allow or encourage alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence, dating violence, stalking, domestic violence, or illegal activity.”
However, some feel songs like these are what often link Greek life to rape culture. The Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office defines rape culture as “a culture or environment where sexual assaults and other abusive behavior is normalized.”
Fraternity organizations may be especially susceptible to fostering this kind of culture within their groups, according to the Nevada Cares program coordinator Daniel Fred, who explains that the group dynamics of brotherhood may inhibit members from protesting inappropriate behavior or language.
“Especially when there’s secrets, like these songs, and things that bring a cohesiveness to being brothers, it makes you not question or openly come against the things that everybody is standing for,” Fred said.
Ashlyn Rochester, a junior at the university and member of a Panhellenic sorority, reported her own sexual assault by a Theta Chi fraternity member to EO/TIX Office in October of 2017. Rochester feels that there is an aspect of “group mentality” between brothers in a fraternity that perpetuates rape culture.
“I just think no one’s brave enough to call out their own brothers because they think they’re like, ‘Oh we’re in this brotherhood for life, like these are my guys, they got my back’,” Rochester said. “So for someone to be like you did a [sh***y] thing, you shouldn’t be a part of this chapter, I think would be bad consequences for them … I think it’s just a group mentality that people are just too scared to speak up.”
Rochester’s friendships with other members of Theta Chi suffered following her decision to report the sexual assault.
“I even told them, I was like ‘Ok, I have options like I could go for Title IX, I could do a police report, things that aren’t going to be in his favor, like if you don’t want to be friends with me, you know, tell me now.’ And they were like, ‘No we’re still friends with you.’ But then they just ended up not talking to me,” Rochester said.
Rochester’s friends did not support her decision to report her sexual assault by one of their fraternity brothers and ignored a police detective’s efforts to reach them for information on the incident.
“I don’t think they helped in the police investigation at all because my detective was like ‘Hey I can’t get a hold of these people they won’t pick up, they won’t answer.’ So they I’m no friend to them at all. I refuse to be friends with anyone in that organization,” Rochester said.
In February of 2018, a few months after filing her initial report to EO/TIX Office, Rochester received a letter from the office saying the investigation would be moving forward. In May 2018, Rochester received another letter informing her of the consequences her attacker would face on behalf of the Title IX office. The punishment included not being able to be on university grounds until Rochester’s graduation and withholding of his transcript for a year.
Despite the success with her report, Rochester does not believe the university is doing enough for survivors on campus, prompting her to join Nevada Cares, a sexual assault awareness organization on campus that promotes community for survivors.
While six fraternities publicly supported sexual assault survivors in the Banners Up movement this past September, both Fred and Rochester believe this public display to be an insufficient, lateral move that does not necessarily signify progression or making amends to survivors.
“I think if UNR is going to move forward in general as a community, men have to step up and be a part of the solution and say ‘This is not right and this isn’t who we’re going to be anymore’,” Fred said. “I think that’s the only way to move forward with anything and to make any lasting change. It’s not demeaning any work that women have done or can do. It’s just that men are going to have to start being a part of the solution.”
Fred said “being part of the solution” demands the participation of the male voice against any kind of sexual assault.
“I think just acknowledging that the majority of us [men] are not perpetrators, are not the problem by what we do. We’re the problem by our silence. So it’s our responsibility to speak up — silence is really cosigning the people who are the perpetrators,” said Fred.
The 2016 UNR Sexual Conduct and Campus Safety Survey found out of the 31 percent of degree-seeking students who participated in the survey, 8 percent self-identified as victims of physical sexual assault or rape, 24 percent experienced sexual harassment and 13 percent reported having experienced sexual coercion or verbal pressure to engage in sexual activities. 87 percent of the survey participants were female and 13 percent were male.
Of the survey participants, 19 percent identified as a member of a sorority as compared to non-Panhellenic women at 11 percent.
The Title IX office said there are currently open sexual assault allegation investigations at the university. However, the office does not track organizational affiliations as part of their record keeping process, therefore could not comment on the presence of fraternity organizations implicated in the open investigations.
The university policy follows state and federal law when it comes to any form of sexual violence.
“Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a form of discrimination; it is illegal,” stated the university’s Codification of Board Policy Statements under Title 4, Chapter 8, Page 10. “No employee or student, either in the workplace or in the academic environment, should be subject to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior of a sexual nature that is not welcome, that is personally offensive, and that interferes with performance. It is expected that students, faculty and staff will treat one another with respect.”
To report a sexual assault or a case of sexual misconduct, the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX asks victims to call the Sexual Assault/ Sexual Misconduct hotline at (775)-784-1030 or the EO/TIX Office at (775)-784-1547. For more information on filing a report with the EO/TIX Office, go to unr.edu/equal-opportunity-title-ix.
Madeline Purdue contributed to this report.
Olivia Ali and Jazmin Orozco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.