4 Reasons Why Secret AU Frat Might Avoid Trouble

By  | 

A recent leak of a seventy-page pdf document has caused quite a stir at the American University Campus in Washington DC. This document presents a series of emails and text messages exchanged by the brothers of the Epsilon Iota fraternity, containing explicit racist, sexist, and homophobic content. A Tumblr page (The Fratergate AU) has been created with the intent of displaying a censored version of the the leaked document.

According to the Fratergate AU, “EI is an unrecognized fraternity at American University in Washington, D.C. The group lost their charter after an alleged date rape scandal in 2001, but continue to operate on our campus”– thus some feel more than simply shock at the situation. The creators of this Tumblr page claim to be pursuing some level of disciplinary action against Epsilon Iota, and this pursuit is picking up steam.

AU students have started a virtual petition tiltled, “I Will Not Be Silent” on, with a host of demands they would like to see from the University administration. Chief among their immediate demands is the expulsion of the Epsilon Iota members involved, on the grounds of, “condoning sexual violence, assault, battery, slander and all other actions relevant to physical, sexual, emotional and all other forms of abuse.”

In this article, I have zero ambition to condone the actions of these students. However, it is worth addressing what I see as four major problems with calling for their expulsion on the grounds of a sexual transgression. (It is worth noting that there may be other violations, such as the continued underground operation of a disbanded fraternity chapter, that allow for expulsion, but I will only be addressing the sexual grounds.)

1. There is no admission of guilt within the documents present on the Fratergate AU Tumblr.

I have read through all of the emails and texts that the Fratergate page has published, and I have yet to find any instance where the EI students admit to committing any crimes. There is only one circumstance where there may be an instance of admission, but it is unclear as to how seriously we can evaluate the text. One student wrote the following, “she was not beaten. she assaulted us repeatedly alongside with calling the entire brotherhood a rape gang and worthless piece of shit after what she eventually got slapped back very softly, slipped and fell in the bushes (she was perfectly fine by the way).” This is the closest case in the document to any claim of wrongdoing. The DCist reports this as an ‘alleged slapping’ when they summarize the document contents as follows, “in censored emails[…] Epsilon Iota discuss the alleged slapping of a woman, routinely describe women as ‘bitches’, seek drugs, use racial slurs, and strategize about how to make women feel comfortable at their parties, despite an alleged sexual assault.”

2. These emails do not conform to the definition of sexual assault in the AU handbook

Many are claiming that the EI students who authored these emails have engaged in a sexual transgression, specifically sexual assault. However, the nature of the conversation and context of these comments make it difficult to define it as such. The American University Handbook says that, “what constitutes sexual harassment […] may be described generally as: unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and other oral, written, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” Unfortunately, the definition provided is very opaque, and states that, “the determination of what constitutes sexual harassment will vary with particular circumstances.” It is hard to say exactly how these originally ‘private’ exchanged emails that were not directed towards a victim will fit the schools weak definition of sexual harassment.

3. There is nothing about Petitions in the AU Handbook

While I personally applaud the creation of a petition to show support for student opposition to the horrific nature of the leaked documents, it may have little to no impact on how the AU administration handles the situation. The AU University Codes, Policies, and Guidelines has a specific section titled Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures for Students, which outlines how to report and process cases of alleged sexual violence, assault, and harassment. Unfortunately for the 1600 plus students who have already signed, there is no mention of a petition as part of the processing procedure.

4. AU has policies that protect Freedom of Speech

In the section of the AU handbook titled, Freedom of Expression Guidelines, it is clearly stated that every AU student has the right to freedom of speech and expression as defined by the law. Simply, each individual has the right to make their own disclosure in anyway they please. Freedom of speech does have its limits, but only if what is said or written qualifies as legal obscenity. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the EI emails and texts qualify due to the fact that these messages were private and not intended for the public. Historically, in cases like Miller v. California, we have seen legal obscenity most often applied in circumstances where an obscene text or speech is being sold to the public.

[The Fratergate AU]

Bo Donoghue

Featured image courtesy of [Jake Waage via Flickr]

Bo Donoghue
Bo Donoghue is a student at The George Washington University. Contact Bo at



Send this to friend