On football game days at the University of Michigan, bed sheets hanging on the fronts of fraternity houses, spray painted with jokes about the visiting football team, are common. But last Saturday during the Michigan-Michigan State matchup, the Psi Upsilon fraternity at the University displayed one that many students deemed insensitive.
The sign read, “You can’t touch us @LarryNassar,” referencing the former MSU physician and USA national gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually assaulting over 250 young women between 1992 and 2016.
Neither Psi Upsilson’s national headquarters nor the chapter’s leadership responded to The Daily’s request for comment by the time of publication.
Saturday afternoon, Central Michigan University senior Kirsten Lovely posted a tweet which included a picture of the banner. At the time of publication, the tweet had 875 retweets and more than 5,200 likes.
Though Lovely does not attend either school, she wrote the “fans can poke fun at each other, but not at the expense of hundreds of survivors.”
In an interview with The Daily, Lovely said she was not in Ann Arbor on the day of the game but saw a picture of the banner on an Instagram story. Lovely is involved in a group at CMU that runs a survivor crisis hotline and has had training on sexual aggression and survivor issues. She said she was familiar with the Nassar case and decided to post about the banner on Twitter because it bothered her.
“I feel like there’s a lot of heat that goes into the (Michigan-Michigan State) game,” Lovely said. “We can make fun of each other and have banter back and forth, but not making fun of it in a way that includes a national tragedy and that heavily impacted survivors.”
Lovely said she was not expecting the tweet to get the reaction that it did, but said she hopes it will start a conversation about how survivors should be treated.
“I think it would be great if there was some education on the history of the case and what the survivors went through,” Lovely said. “I know there were victim impact statements that were bad at the trial, that would be a really great place to start.”
Lovely was not the only person responding negatively to the banner online. Replies to Lovely’s original tweet called the banner “disgusting” and “classless.”
Olympic gymnast Simone Biles retweeted the tweet, writing she hopes the University takes proper measures in investigating the banner.
In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said Fraternity and Sorority Life staff contacted the chapter president and advisors of the University’s Psi Upsilon chapter. Complaints against the chapter have been submitted by campus community members to the Greek Activities Review Panel, according to Broekhuizen. She said the matter was addressed swiftly and appropriately by the fraternity involved and its national office.
“FSL has learned that the chapter will be pursuing corrective action for those responsible for hanging the banners and those who failed to intervene before anyone could be negatively impacted,” Broekhuizen wrote.
Additionally, Broekhuizen wrote that FSL supports students in their four councils to live more fully into the principles of their international organizations, campus core values and the FSL Statement for Human Dignity.
LSA junior Mary McKillop, LSA Student Government vice president, first became aware of the banner after seeing Lovely’s tweet. She said she thought the banner was unnecessary and hurtful to see.
“I think it’s really disappointing and sad that the survivors of that situation were turned into a joke for some stupid football rivalry,” McKillop said. “School rivalries are supposed to be fun, and that just really went somewhere it didn’t need to go.”
McKillop said she thinks Psi Upsilon should release a public apology and be punished for hanging up the banner.
“A lot of people I know are personally upset by (the banner),” McKillop said. “I can only imagine what being involved in that situation and seeing that would feel like.”