ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - Augustana College's oldest fraternity Phi Omega Phi has been suspended and will not be getting a pledge class this year. This comes after a Title IX report against the fraternity for showing a slideshow of female students with "Rush Poobah" written on their breasts and buttocks at a recruitment event. The slideshow played for the duration of the event, about 90 minutes.
This isn't the first case brought against the fraternity, also known as "Poobah." In 2018, a student came forward with a rape allegation at the fraternity house. The next year, a conversation between a fraternity member and three others surfaced, which appeared to defend sexual assault. The fraternity member who is no longer in the group was heard saying "college is all about sex. So let it happen." Then on February 21, 2020, dozens of students protested the fraternity and celebrated the suspension.
Within a few minutes of the sit-in starting, an email from Wes Brooks who is the Vice-President and the Dean of Students was sent out to the student body saying the fraternity has been suspended for 4-8 weeks. One of the organizers jumped up, reading it aloud. Then someone exclaimed, "we did it!" and cheers erupted.
"It makes me very excited to be on a campus that's not gonna withstand this," said Augustana student Alivia Phelps. With the Poobahs facing backlash from Augustana students for three years in a row, many felt the suspension was overdue. "This isn't the first time that Phi Omega Phi has done something that has been completely disrespectful of women and students on this campus. We've been apologetic before."
"I'm sick of the Poobahs disgracing Augustana. I love Augustana, I want to see Augustana thrive when I graduate. But with the Poobah's presence on campus, that's not going to happen," said Augustana Senior Richard Padula.
The sit-in was held outside of the Office of Student Life office, where the Phi Omega Phi advisor works. "We need to show campus we don't want them back!" said one of the organizers in the crowd. Another student yelled, "Take a stand!"
"I think the actions displayed by not only the Poobahs but the administration are not consistent with what Augustana preaches. I think it's important we take a stand in what we want as our fundamental university experience," said Phelps.
Augustana College's Vice-President and Dean of Students Wes Brooks wrote they will hold "people accountable and have high expectations."
"It's time to weed out the bad seeds and make Augustana the campus it says it is," continued Phelps.
A petition to remove the fraternity from Augustana's Greek Life gained momentum quickly, with 1,500 signatures within 24 hours.
The fraternity issued an apology to students who brought the complaints to their attention.
The email from Augustana College's Vice-President and Dean of Students Wes Brooks:
"The Phi Omega Phi fraternity will be immediately suspended.
They will be part of a recertification process developed over the last 12 months, and the Phi Omega Phi fraternity volunteered last year to be involved in the first cohort of Greek Chapters reviewed. That process will occur and be concluded in the next 4 – 8 weeks. Until the conclusion of the recertification, the Phi Omega Phi fraternity will be suspended from all activities.
As an educational institution, it is the responsibility of Augustana College to show and express care for all students, including those that may be involved in a concerning situation or are negatively impacted by another’s words or actions. Showing care can and should include holding people accountable and having high expectations, but it should be done in a manner that provides grace and respect.
I want to acknowledge these decisions will not please all parties and that differing views and opinions exist. I also want to thank all members of the community who work hard to find the right balance of care for all of our students during these difficult situations. I will be an active part in the ongoing strengthening of the Greek community at Augustana, and we will continue to align our Greek activities with the mission and community principles of our institution."
Phi Omega Phi's statement to the student body:
"The gentlemen of Phi Omega Phi are writing to the Augustana Community to address recent concerns that have been brought to our attention in regards to our informal recruitment event.
Informal Rush is designed with a goal in mind of attracting a diverse group of upstanding potential new members that represent the values and standards to which we hold ourselves. It is traditionally held in a less formal and casual environment so as to allow PNMs the chance to drop their guard down and connect with active greeks.
Upon review of our informal rush event, we realize we failed to provide an all inclusive environment by having a slide show that included revealing photos of our female friends, with their full consent, and asking certain questions to the PNMs. We understand that it is our responsibility not only to avoid the kind of behavior that perpetuates negative stereotypes about Greek Life but also to uphold
Augustana’s mission. We realize that the inappropriate photos and questions not only are not necessary for a robust Greek experience but also undermine what Greek Life and Phi Omega Phi can be when at its
We sincerely apologize to those students who have brought these complaints to our attention.
We realize that we can learn from this situation, and thank those students for voicing their experience. These photos and questions of this nature are unnecessary at the end of the day. Whether they were provided with consent or not; whether the questions were asked in innocence or not. They do not in any way exhibit the true values that Phi Omega Phi stands for.
With that being said we take full responsibility for our actions and cannot change the past. In our eyes - if one PNM leaves with a bad taste, then we have not done our job.
As a Fraternity, we embrace our responsibility to ensure that the concerns raised about our informal recruitment event are not repeated. We have met and will continue to meet with administration
and faculty members for help and guidance, as well as completely scrapping the previous format of our informal rush event. All New Members are important to us, and we have prioritized our efforts into
building a new Rush Process that is transparent and holds true to our values, while keeping the PNM’s experience at the forefront of everything.
The Gentlemen of Phi Omega Phi"