While the last week’s string of vandalism elicited anger from Greek communities, it was the University’s response to the incident that infuriated others. President Gregory Fenves issued a statement Wednesday that condemned ‘threats,’ detailed security increases and — paradoxically — committed to making campus safe for all students.
The administration’s alliance with fraternities contradicts its promise to support the marginalized on campus. By offering unequivocal support to fraternities, Fenves refuses to address the safety threat these groups pose. If UT wants to foster a safe learning environment, it must recognize the vandalism as a symptom of oppression that Greek life breeds.
The administration’s extension of support to fraternities is a slap in the face to students who are constantly berated with hate. Swaths of the student population were degraded to a few cents on a price tag at the affirmative action bake sale, only for the Dean of Students to defend free speech in response. When a student was attacked with racial slurs and broken bottles in West Campus, Fenves suspended the perpetrator for a semester and waited a year to respond with a Hate and Bias Incident policy. Just trying to earn a quality education as a black UT student can require grappling with advisors who do not really care.
For Nicole Ozuna, a Plan II and radio-television-film junior, the disparity is a direct insult to marginalized groups on campus. “At a primarily white institution like UT, the stasis of the administration when confronted by POC who feel threatened daily in contrast to the administration’s plans for action when wealthy, white men express discontent once speaks volumes to something POC already knew: At UT Austin, we are not 100 percent safe or valued,” the Latinx woman said in a Facebook message.
Simply searching “UT FIJI” on Twitter reveals dozens of marginalized voices standing in solidarity with the vandals. Fenves should take a clue and realize that his campus has very clear qualms concerning the Greek community.
When Fenves promises to make UT a “safe environment for all,” he is making an empty, third-party promise to love both oppressors and the oppressed. Under the guise of protecting all, the University endorses the racism, sexism and oppressive tendencies some students perpetuate in direct attack against other students’ existences.
Fenves has a decision to make. He can continue condoning rape culture, racism and violence, or he can follow through with promises to make campus a safe place for students who aren’t privileged white men. He must confront the vile culture of assault and bigotry our Greek systems are entrenched in, and he must present minorities with the same support and resources he currently lends to fraternities.
Until then, let us stand in solidarity with those who aren’t afraid to call out the oppressors.
Larcher is a Plan II and economics freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyLarcher.