Content warning: This piece describes depictions of drugging, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
An anonymous plaintiff Jane Doe filed a civil lawsuit against the Psi Upsilon fraternity at the University of Michigan, claiming she was drugged and raped by a member of the fraternity while attending a party at the fraternity house in August 2019.
The fraternity member allegedly coerced Doe to an upstairs room in the Psi Upsilon house, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court. The fraternity member, who was a senior at the time of the alleged assault and has since graduated, reportedly closed the door and told Doe she could not leave when she asked to do so.
The fraternity member then gave Doe a cup of water that tasted strange, according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Doe became “completely helpless,” after which the fraternity member raped her.
According to the lawsuit, Doe, who was underage as an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the assault, was given alcohol by members of the fraternity. The lawsuit says members of Psi Upsilon did not ask Doe for identification even though male guests were asked to show identification.
The complaint says that Doe was “so visibly intoxicated there was no way she could have given consent for sexual intercourse.”
Doe is being represented by Vernon Johnson, the namesake of Ven Johnson Law, a personal injury law firm based out of Detroit. The lawsuit names the fraternity member as well as both the University chapter and international headquarters of Psi Upsilon.
In a press release from the law firm, Johnson said, “this is a cut and dry case of assault, battery and rape.”
“(The fraternity member) knowingly coerced my client to a private room, where he had a spiked drink waiting for her and then attacked her,” Johnson said. “Intentionally taking advantage of and raping women who are so intoxicated they are incapable of giving consent is a disgusting and reprehensible practice. These defendants must be held accountable for their despicable behavior.”
The alleged assault took place “during what is referred to within the fraternity community as ‘Freshman F–k Week,’” according to the law firm’s press release. The lawsuit alleges that Psi Upsilon Nationals and the University’s Psi Upsilon chapter “knew or suspected” that the first week of the fall semester is known by this nickname and thus “encouraged, endorsed and provided the opportunity” for the fraternity member to rape Doe.
Fraternity members in the University’s chapter of Psi Upsilon allegedly kept a “scorecard” of how many women the fraternity brothers had sexual intercourse with or engaged in sexual petting with during “Freshman F–k Week,” the lawsuit says.
In an interview, Johnson said under Michigan’s social host liability laws, the fraternity was also responsible for enabling the assault by serving underage students alcohol.
“So here, as it pertains to someone who’s going to want to say ‘yeah, Johnson, but your client was drunk” (…) The fact that she got drunk and passed out and otherwise was so inebriated that she was incapable of giving consent, that in essence is what they created by giving her the alcohol,” Johnson said.
In a statement to The Daily from Thomas Fox, executive director of Psi Upsilon Nationals, wrote that the organization was unaware of the allegations before the lawsuit was filed Monday.
“Psi Upsilon Fraternity takes all reports of risk management violations, especially those with regard to sexual assault, very seriously,” Fox wrote. “We are currently investigating the incident and gathering further information as we received no notice of allegations prior to this complaint being filed. The undergraduate chapter is being cooperative in this matter.”
When asked for comment, the University’s chapter of Psi Upsilon directed The Daily to Fox’s statement.
The lawsuit was first reported Thursday by The Detroit News.
Psi Upsilon has chapters at more than 50 colleges in the United States and Canada. The Phi Upsilon chapter on the University campus was founded in 1865, according to the chapter website.
The University’s Psi Upsilon chapter faced national backlash last fall — 3 months after the alleged assault against Doe — for hanging a banner referencing Larry Nassar during the weekend of the Michigan-Michigan State football game. Nassar is the Michigan State University physician sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting more than 150 people over 30 years.
In 2018, Psi Upsilon and five other fraternities formed the Ann Arbor Interfraternity Council, a new council for chapters on campus unhappy with the University’s fraternity and sorority life policies. Psi Upsilon holds membership in both the Interfraternity Council, the council for fraternities affiliated with the University, and the AAIFC.
The fraternity was previously expelled from the IFC in 2013 after a new member was taken to the hospital for having a lethally high level of blood alcohol content.
The IFC declined to comment.
Daily News Editors Alex Harring and Claire Hao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.