Author’s note: This piece reflects the opinions of the Editorial Page Editors and the Senior Opinion Editors of The Michigan Daily, not the Editorial Board.
In anticipation of the Michigan-Michigan State football game this past Saturday, the Phi chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity at the University of Michigan hung a bed sheet from its house’s window bearing the phrase “You can’t touch us @LarryNassar”, a reference to the former MSU physician currently serving multiple sentences in prison for first-degree sexual misconduct and possession of child pornography. Photos of the bed sheet quickly made rounds on social media, rightfully attracting negative attention from U-M and Michigan State students alike. This was seconded by those publicly affiliated with the Nassar case, including gymnast Simone Biles. As the Editorial Page Editors and Senior Editors of The Michigan Daily Opinion section, we condemn Psi U’s behavior on Saturday and urge the fraternity to publicly acknowledge this and apologize for its actions.
Larry Nassar was convicted of molesting at least 265 young women and girls, mostly athletes, from multiple schools and teams. There is no overstating the trauma that he caused. Poking fun at this situation and portraying the tragedy as MSU-specific shows a lack of compassion for survivors of sexual assault and a lack of understanding for the long-lasting and far-reaching consequences of Nassar’s crimes. The website for U-M’s chapter of Psi Upsilon states the fraternity “nurtures development of mature decision-making, individual responsibility and moral leadership,” and that its members are “guided by principles of responsibility, civility and courtesy.” Using sexual assault as a punchline is not a civil or mature decision. If Psi U really wants to champion itself as a pillar of maturity, responsibility and moral leadership, then it must publicly acknowledge its actions and work to rectify its faults.
Fraternity and Sorority Life staff have already contacted the fraternity and say that Psi U has plans to internally address the behavior, which is a step in the right direction. We also want to acknowledge the community members who took the time to file complaints against the fraternity for speaking up about the insensitive banner. However, there has been no public word from the chapter, including anything on their Facebook or website, that even mentions the Saturday controversy. Pursuing corrective action against those responsible is a start, but the rest of the University needs to know that jokes about sexual assault are not acceptable in our community, even when directed at our sports rivals.