Lone AMS VP Academic candidate Max Holmes’s rejection of his Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) endorsement set off a wave of support and anger online, leading other candidates to reject their endorsements as well.
Holmes wrote in a public post Wednesday that in a meeting with the IFC, leaders said those accused of sexual assault should be given housing accommodations, implying frat party attendance was lower when a member accused of sexual assault was there; raised concerns about false assault allegations; and said using the word “survivor” assumed the guilt of the accused. Holmes said the discussion “gave me some of the worst feelings I’ve ever had as a survivor.”
Including Holmes, six of the eight candidates endorsed by the IFC said they reject the endorsement, and some candidates and former AMS employees are calling on IFC leadership to resign.
IFC President Jeriah Newman said things have been taken out of context.
He said he had “no recollection” of a discussion around frat party attendance, and said no one brought up false accusations or claimed that using the word “survivor” presumes guilt.
“What we said was that language, including the word ‘survivor,’ is important to have a common definition for when we’re engaging in these conversations surrounding sexual consent, so we can all have a clearer definition on what the dialogue is,” he said.
Newman said fraternity leaders inquired about options for accommodations for both parties involved in a sexual assault disclosure or report. “So we came from a place of wanting to know, why do we need to be removing those women from their places when we should also have the option of, while someone is being investigated, having an alternate place on campus for them to stay, and not in the environment where maybe an assault had taken place,” he said.
Currently, section 1.5 of UBC’s sexual misconduct policy states that “UBC will provide support services and accommodations to Members of the UBC Community who Disclose or Report Sexual Misconduct.” Accommodations that may be available to those people do include student residence re-location or short-term emergency housing.
In a public statement Newman said was written by himself, Will Shelling and Aaron Benwic, the IFC said they “would like to make it very clear that the IFC cares about the safety, security, and well-being of all members of the Greek Community and the UBC community at large” and “will always support survivors of sexual assault.”
Newman said he regretted that he wasn’t able to have a “healthy dialogue” about the issue, and that he was being misrepresented online.
“My morals are completely at odds with what is being portrayed on social media today, and that’s probably the hardest part of what’s been going on,” he said.
Presidential candidate Marium Hamid said she plans to reject her endorsement unless the IFC releases a public letter of apology and commits to “engage in further discussion about the views they hold.”
“As someone who is peer advocate working in the realm that requires a survivor-centric approach to offer support to students, I am very upset to see that such an incidence could take place in a meeting of leaders of organizations. I understand that the views held by the people mentioned in Max [Holmes]’s statement are not representative of the entire fraternity community here but I am disheartened to see that there weren’t people inside the room who expressed their frustration over that line of questioning,” she said.
UBC Board of Governors student member Jakob Gattinger, who has already won the race since it was unopposed, said he would reject the endorsement unless Newman resigned by tomorrow. Gattinger is a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
“Greek life has long struggled to deal with issues of sexual violence, and as a fraternity member, I am saddened that our collective voice through the IFC has been misrepresented this way. I know that the vast majority of my brothers, as well as the rest of the Greek system, completely disagree with this attitude,” he said in a message to The Ubyssey.
Newman said he doesn’t plan to resign.
Jeanie Malone, who was elected to the other Board seat for a second term, also unopposed, first said she was thinking it over as she didn’t “have a good understanding of the politics” in the Greek system. She rejected the endorsement at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in a public statement.
“I do not believe that [the IFC’s] response showed sufficient willingness to understand or learn, which is what I would have expected in such a situation,” she wrote. “Ally-ship surrounding issues of sexual assault and sexual violence can be difficult to navigate. It requires openness, a willingness to accept and take responsibility for mistakes, and a desire to educate oneself. I believe these are present in the Greek community, but these were not the values I saw reflected in the statement.”
VP External candidate and sorority member Cristina Ilnitchi said she also rejects the IFC’s endorsement.
“While I appreciate the support of a community in which I have found a lot of value during my time at UBC, I also cannot stand by the comments that were made last night. As a UBC student, sorority woman, and executive of the Panhellenic Council, the issue of sexual violence within our community and the greater UBC community is one that I care deeply about and actively work to improve,” she said. “As leaders in a community that strive to be the best they can be, that support hundreds of students — we can always do better.”
VP Finance and Senate candidate Kuol Akuechbeny, who worked with Holmes in the past, rejected his IFC endorsement for Senate on Thursday.
“I know [Holmes] is someone who is very concerned about sexual assault policies. I empathize towards him and I will continue to support him on that cause. We shouldn’t be blaming people who have been victims of sexual assault. I appreciate that he stood by his principles,” he said.
Akuechbeny also criticized what he sees as Greek over-involvement in AMS elections.
“The IFC is used to monopolizing the position of VP finance — they just grab someone to take over now and then. That’s not how we should run our student society,” he said.
VP Administration candidate Aaron Verones first said he was considering whether to reject the endorsement, then said that he would not, “unless significant new information comes to light,” as “it would be inappropriate for me to take action when I was not privy to the discussion that took place.”
VP Finance candidate and Sigma Chi fraternity member Adam Forsgren also accepted the endorsement.
“The Greek community has offered so many positive experiences to a countless number of students, and I believe the IFC’s questions — albeit contentious — were trying to understand Max’s platform in more depth,” he said.
Newman said he felt “awful that someone felt uncomfortable,” but that Holmes was “pointing fingers” and perpetuating negative stereotypes about fraternities.
“If the approach was taken like was taken today with Max [Holmes]’s post and with the further stigmatization of the fraternities, guys are going to close up and not want to engage and participate in the dialogue” around consent and sexual assault, he said. “I think that [Holmes’s post] is polarizing, and I don’t think that’s the direction we need to go.”
Now, former AMS leaders and others are speaking out on social media in support of Holmes.
Former VP Academic Daniel Lam said on Facebook that he was “thoroughly disgusted at the IFC Leadership.”
Another former VP Academic, Samantha So, called on the IFC to “reconsider its executive team” and make “an actual, apologetic statement, addressing how their actions as of late not only go against the promises they’ve made to addressing sexual assault within their community to the AMS and to the student body as a whole, but also only serve to compound the suffering of survivors.”
Former VP External Kathleen Simpson said she was “disgusted and deeply saddened” when she heard Holmes’s recollection of the meeting.
“One of the things that upset me most about this story is hearing people who claimed to be champions of change express such totally different views in private,” she said. “I hope that we as students can take this opportunity to look into our own communities and challenge ourselves to do better.”
This story has been updated to include Jeanie Malone’s and Kuol Akuechbeny’s rejections of their IFC endorsements.