Members of a fraternity kicked off the San Diego State University campus for allegedly waving sex toys at anti-rape demonstrators said Thursday that the charges were exaggerated, based largely on an 18-year-old member's "immature and stupid" actions.
The school's Delta Sigma Phi chapter was suspended last month for at least two years after the anti-rape activists alleged frat members waved dildos and shouted obscenities during a November demonstration. The university also charged the fraternity with alcohol and hazing violations. The fraternity's national office didn't defend the SDSU chapter.
But several members of the fraternity told The Huffington Post the allegations were greatly exaggerated, and blamed a freshman who waved a dildo at a group he failed to realize was protesting sexual assault. Other charges stemmed from calling an ambulance for a drunken female student and a 10-second video clip showing what was alleged to have been hazing, they said. They said the suspension was imposed without giving them a chance to defend themselves.
"He sees this group of people, it's nighttime, they're probably 50 feet away and we can't really read what their signs actually say," said senior Brenden Boesgaard, explaining the freshman's actions. "The group is coming around saying, 'Fuck frats,' and he kind of does this dismissive, keep moving motion with the dildo -- which again, is immature and stupid, he shouldn't have brought it out, but again, he's 18."
It wasn't until fraternity members noticed a sign containing the word "rape," that they realized, as Boesgaard put it, "That's not a normal group of students chanting 'fuck frats.'" It was a Take Back The Night march, a regular anti-rape event held on campuses around the country.
The university said it wouldn't comment further, except to confirm a judicial meeting Dec. 12 that included the president of the local chapter of Delta Sigma Phi. The fraternity's national office made the call to close the chapter.
Boesgaard said fraternity members had been toying with a box of gag gifts from Hustler on Nov. 21 when the anti-rape march approached. The freshman walked onto the balcony, holding a dildo from the Hustler package, he said.
The anti-rape activists issued a letter that week to students and media outlets, saying marchers had been taunted on fraternity row with sex toys, obscenities and egg-throwing. The controversy prompted an indefinite suspension of all social activities for Greek life at SDSU.
The Delta Sigma Phi brothers said they hesitated to defend themselves, for fear of disparaging an anti-rape group whose overall message they support.
"We can't be like, 'Hey, this group that has a worthy cause is lying,'" Boesgaard said. He said he was frustrated that his friends were portrayed in the media "as this group of terrible people that makes fun of rape victims. It's an unfair double-standard when it comes to fraternities. There are scumbag guys out there, but if I hear, if I know someone's been sexually assaulted, I want that guy's fuckin' head."
Other members said the suspension took them by surprise.
"It was depressing, you had guys crying and stuff," said Forrest Tsu, a sophomore. "It's supposed to be part of something for four years of our life and continue on, but it kind of got cut short. Other fraternities got lesser punishment for what I think are worse crimes."
The university and the Delta Sigma Phi national office said the SDSU chapter showed a "consistent pattern of policy violations," and "significant hazing and alcohol misconduct issues." Two members said school administrators told them the alcohol charge related to a party when the fraternity called an ambulance for a heavily intoxicated female student.
"She was just way too drunk to even, like, respond," said sophomore Nick Chapman. "She was completely unresponsive. I saw her and her eyes were just rolled back. So we called an ambulance, let the cops into the house and worried for her welfare. We knew we'd get in trouble for it and it'd get back to the school, but we didn't want the girl to die. We did that rather than hide her and throw her into a bed."
San Diego State doesn't have a "Good Samaritan" policy that provides amnesty for alcohol violations if someone calls an ambulance for a medical emergency related to drinking. According to Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, at least 247 schools had some version of a Good Sam policy in 2013.
Students involved in the Take Back the Night march who made allegations against the fraternity didn't return requests for comment. The Delta Sigma Phi national office, which said last month "certain members" of the local chapter "have not maintained the integrity" expected of them, declined to provide details.
"Regardless of the details of the incidents in question, members should never have engaged in any activities that so drastically depart from the Delta Sigma Phi Code of Conduct and policies," the fraternity's national executive director and CEO Patrick Jessee said in a statement. "Many members of the closed chapter, including its former leadership, understand the severity of the incidents in fall 2014."