Students across the Penn State campus gathered Friday outside of Old Main to rally in response to the continuing investigation of Kappa Delta Rho.
State College police were presented with evidence in January that the fraternity had maintained a private Facebook page featuring naked and partially dressed women.
Displaying signs with slogans such as “Support the survivors,” the crowd was given an opportunity to sign an open letter to President Eric Barron and university administrators.
The letter, crafted by Philipsburg resident and Penn State alumna Josie Rose and Penn State senior Lauren Lewis, listed four specific demands, including that the Office of Student Conduct place all of the students listed as members of the KDR private Facebook page on suspension until their criminal investigation is resolved.
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“It’s just so obviously wrong. This is a no-brainer,” Rose said.
Rose earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn State and met Lewis when she taught her honors English and women’s studies classes at the Grier School in Tyrone. They remained in touch long after Lewis matriculated to Penn State to study print journalism, periodically exchanging texts or emails.
The investigation into KDR gave them plenty to talk about this week.
It was almost 48 hours ago when the pair first discussed standing outside on the steps of Old Main, just the two of them holding signs and swinging cowbells to advocate for action against those found responsible.
They created a Facebook page for the fledgling event titled “We Are ... Taking a Stand,” expecting maybe a handful of others to join them at Old Main.
Instead, Rose and Lewis found themselves addressing a crowd of about 100 people Friday afternoon.
“We thought it was just going to be the two of us so I would have been happy with three people,” Lewis said.
She and Rose were joined at the top of the steps by guest speakers from organizations such as the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services and Window of Opportunity, a political and social activist group.
“We clearly have an epidemic of rape and sexual assault,” Laura Shadle, president and founder of Window of Opportunity, said.
The remarks made by each of the speakers adhered closely to the demands outlined in the open letter to Barron and the university administrators drafted by Rose and Lewis.
In addition to calling for an interim suspension of students listed as members on the KDR private Facebook page, the letter urges that those found guilty be expelled from Penn State, that the university sever all ties with Kappa Delta Rho’s local chapter and that the entire fraternity system be re-evaluated and reorganized.
Students in the crowd applauded and cheered after each speaker. Rose said she and Lewis wanted to keep the tenor of the event positive despite the scandal lurking in the backdrop.
“It’s so not Penn State. It’s not what the vast majority stand for and want,” Rose said.
After the rally, Rose and Lewis met with Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for Student Affairs, and representatives from other student and community organizations to discuss the legal ramifications of their demands.
Although no concrete outcome was achieved, Lewis said she is glad the discussion will continue.
“We are planning to continue meeting with him and the rest of the administration to make sure they honor their commitment to actually make a change,” Lewis said.