Fraternity’s national leader calls on UMass chancellor to stand by chapter

  • Theta Chi, a fraternity at UMass, had extensive damage including broken building and car windows, after a riot Sunday night over anonymous allegations of sexual assault at the fraternity. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2021 4:50:13 PM

AMHERST — Theta Chi fraternity’s national leader is calling on University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to be an advocate for members at the Amherst chapter’s North Pleasant Street home, where several protests took place this week following an anonymous report of an alleged sexual assault.

“UMass must publicly acknowledge that Theta Chi has not been found guilty of any crime or violation of any policy and must be afforded the same courtesy and dignity as any other UMass organization or student,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Mayer wrote in the letter sent on Friday afternoon.

Starting last Sunday and continuing throughout the week, hundreds of UMass students launched demonstrations against the fraternity after a first-year student wrote on the social media app Yik Yak that she had been assaulted and drugged at the fraternity, according to students.

Both Amherst police and UMass officials say they have received no reports of such an incident to investigate, and in a letter to the campus community, Subbaswamy wrote that sexual violence of any kind is condemned, but in this case there was no way to corroborate the claims.

On Friday afternoon, dozens of students for at least the second time during the week staged a sit-in at the Whitmore Administration Building, in part asking for Theta Chi to be disbanded and for new protocols for handling sexual assaults to be in place.

Mayer’s letter also expressed concern about threats and harassment the fraternity members are facing, describing some students as a “violent mob” trying the fraternity members in the public square, including at their home and in their classes.

“Leadership from you and other senior administrators is needed to further underscore that vigilante justice is unacceptable and that Theta Chi and its members are deserving of due process and presumption of innocence,” Mayer wrote.

During a protest outside the Theta Chi fraternity house Sunday night, windows were broken at the fraternity and a fence was damaged, and at least one parked vehicle was overturned. Mayer asks Subbaswamy to identify individuals responsible for causing property damage so that the fraternity can pursue criminal or civil relief.

Two students were arrested at the protest and charged with rioting and vandalism.

“UMass officials could have and should have stopped the rioters from getting anywhere near the facility,” Mayer wrote. “Any individual confirmed to have committed violence or property destruction against Theta Chi or its members should be expelled and permanently banned from campus.”

Mayer’s letter cited what he argues has become a culture of “untrue accusations” against Theta Chi, including in February when the fraternity was briefly suspended due to video footage of a loud party that broke COVID-19 rules, though the fraternity maintained the video actually showed a party that had taken place before the pandemic.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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