Education

FIU frat suspended over group chat’s rape jokes, anti-Semitic memes and nude photos

Florida International University suspended the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity after the school connected a series of leaked screenshots of a disturbing group chat to the Greek organization.

The screenshots, initially sent to school administrators in July by an anonymous source, showed what appear to be multiple non-consensual nude images of women, references to pedophilia, anti-Semitic and rape jokes, drug sales and insensitive comments about a sorority member who died this summer.

One member asked another to share naked pictures of a 17-year-old. “(I) wanna feel like a ped,” he explained.

Group members shared anti-Semitic memes that referenced the Holocaust, made jokes that “it’s not rape if she enjoys it,” called sorority sisters “sluts” and talked about buying cocaine and Adderall. One shared picture appears to show two naked men shotgunning cans of beer.

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Some members even brought up the last FIU fraternity exposed over lewd and illegal private chat — Pi Kappa Alpha, or “pike.” The frat was suspended for five years in 2013 after a leaked cache of screenshots exposed conversations about buying drugs, sharing women’s nude images without their permission and boasts about hazing. Two members were expelled.

“So basically we can do everything pike did as long as its not on any chat,” one member wrote.

Tau Kappa Epsilon’s Sigma Alpha chapter released a statement noting that they “are fully cooperating with university officials on their investigation.”

The university was unable to connect the screenshots to “Teke” until this month, said FIU’s Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Lunsford. In July, when officials brought in Teke brothers, they denied ownership of the screenshots and claimed they’d been hacked.

After months of waiting on a response, the anonymous emailer tried again on Sept. 28, sending the screenshots to top administrators and the heads of each Greek organization.

“According to an email sent by Chris Medrano, the IFC Advisor, FIU Administration says that these members of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity are NOT a violation of the student code of conduct. If this isn’t a violation then WHAT is? ...” the email read.

This time, the screenshots were also leaked to media outlets and spread among sororities. Women came forward and identified themselves, helping FIU administrators sort through the mix of nicknames and real names in the chat.

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“When we got them in the second time they couldn’t deny it,” Lunsford said.

Krista Schmidt, FIU’s student government president, was one of the recipients of the email. Schmidt is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon, the same sorority as the girl mocked in the group chat for dying after falling off a Grecian cliff this summer.

“It was definitely hurtful to see her name out there like that,” she said.

Her sorority, along with several others, made a formal statement condemning the chat as “disgusting and obscene” and vowing to abstain from any activity with Teke through Fall 2018.

“Whatever we could do that’s in our power, we did,” Schmidt said. “We thought it wasn’t right.”

Schmidt, a 21-year-old senior studying communication arts, is also a part of FIU’s sexual assault awareness campaign. “It’s on us.” She said she plans to turn this event into a lesson on the bystander effect. Teke has 100 members, although it appears only several dozen were active in the group chat.

“One person could have stepped up and said something,” she said. “If we could empower more people to be that one person, this stuff wouldn’t happen.”

Teke is suspended until the investigation — which focuses on the non-consensual naked pictures — by the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution is over. Until then, the fraternity brothers are forbidden from social events or intramural sports.

“They cease operation,” Lunsford said.

Two other fraternities — Sigma Chi and Phi Gamma Delta — were suspended the same day as Teke over allegations of serving alcohol to minors. Sigma Chi was later cleared of charges. Phi Gamma Delta was suspended in 2015 after a young woman died after an off-campus party.

Lunsford said the university’s 3,000 fraternity and sorority members, like student athletes, are more visible than regular FIU students, and their bad behavior is often the focus of more negative attention.

“We expect them to be model students, and when they aren’t we’re disappointed,” he said. “We’re not afraid to kick someone off campus.”

Correction: An initial version of the article incorrectly stated the punishment Pi Kappa Alpha members received.

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