Last week, fraternities near the University of Texas at Austin were vandalized with messages spray painted on or near their houses. The first fraternity to be targeted was Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji. On Monday, the words “rapist” and “racist” appeared on the pillars near their gates. Throughout the week, other fraternities, including Kappa Alpha, Kappa Sigma, and Pi Kappa Alpha were also targeted. The university’s student newspaper, the Daily Texan, reports that the graffiti ranged from accusations of racism and rape to threats such as “kill frat boys” and “nuke the frats.”
Pierce Durham, the president of UT’s Fiji chapter told the Texan that the fraternity has filed a police report and that they’re unsure of who the vandals were. “Texas Fiji is vandalized from time to time, and we are working with police to get to the bottom of this incident,” he said.
On Wednesday, UT President Gregory Fenves issued a statement about the vandalism:
At The University of Texas of Austin, we will not tolerate vandalism and threats targeting our students and are actively investigating the recent incidents near campus. Many students understandably feel concerned and vulnerable. I want them to know we are committed to making UT Austin a safe environment for all of our students.
UT police are working with Austin police to add extra patrols to the neighborhood and review video footage as part of a criminal investigation. The university has provided crisis support, advice and guidance to the students and groups affected by the incidents. The Office of the Dean of Students is investigating, in accordance with the recently issued Hate and Bias Incident Policy. The incident has also been referred to the Campus Climate Response Team.
Anyone with information about these incidents should contact UTPD at 512-471-4441.
On Friday, an anonymous group claimed responsibility for the vandalism in an essay published on “It’s Going Down,” a “media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements.” The group, which refers to itself in the essay as “barbarians at the gates” claims that they are “rogue actors” who launched the attacks in response to “the everyday crisis that is rape culture, white supremacy, and elitism.” The group seems to be using fraternities as a proxy for their frustrations with the university as a whole:
Fiji may be notorious for its rape room, racist parties, and horrific pledge rules, but it is not that unique. It is no accident that so many fraternities take the style of plantation homes—the institutions of Greek life are themselves colonial, bourgeois, patriarchal structures, founded to preserve the reproduction of elite classes. Our attacks come in response to the everyday fear and feeling of danger that these institutions and their members produce for students of color, women, queer and trans students, and other marginalized folks. Catcalls, racial slurs, rape jokes, and more are the daily realities which go unspoken and uninvestigated by either the police or the University.
In the essay, the group notes that it hopes that conversations about sexual assault and white supremacy on campus will continue, and that their actions will serve as a “template” for other students to hold university institutions accountable. The essay also hints that the original “barbarians” may no longer continue their vandalism amidst police investigations.
The Texas Interfraternity Council released a statement condemning the vandalism and calling for a “safe, enriching and inclusive environment for all members of the UT campus community.” The organization also noted that they’ve been working with the university and other organizations such as Not On My Campus and Voices Against Violence to address sexual assault. Just last month, the university released a study that reported that 15 percent of female undergraduate students at UT said they had been raped. The Dallas Morning News reported that University President Gregory Fenves said the survey “reveals a problem in our university, as well as society, that has existed in the shadows for too long.”
This isn’t the first time that UT has been faced with this kind of vandalism. In 2015, statues of Confederate leaders were spray painted with messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Bump All The Chumps.” One statue was that of Jefferson Davis, which was later moved from its post in the university’s Main Mall to an exhibition in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.