A post on a Facebook group for Penn memes has garnered over 530 reactions — including 142 “angry” responses — and has sparked discussion about exclusivity and sexual assault.
At approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, College senior Will Butkiewicz posted a screenshot of a rejection email from Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault on the public Facebook group “Official Unofficial Penn Squirrel Catching Club.” Butkiewicz captioned the screenshot: “Tfw you’re a man against rape & sexual assault and you’re rejected from the group of men against rape & sexual assault #exclusive #leaveittopenn #eyeroll.”
Butkiewicz said he applied to the group after attending an open house earlier in the semester, and received the rejection email from MARS after participating in an interview and waiting nearly a month and a half.
“I said, well, that’s weird not to be accepted to this group that seemed like they should want more people to talk about rape and sexual assault,” Butkiewicz said. “So then — given that they’d taken so long and everything else — I posted it on the Penn meme group not actually expecting a huge response.”
As one of two applicants who was denied among the pool of 21 candidates, Butkiewicz characterized MARS’ selection process as “absolutely ludicrous.”
“I posted it to show the hypocrisy of the situation, and a lot of people agreed with it,” Butkiewicz said. “I just think that the way they’re functioning isn’t the best way.”
College junior Zeeshan Mallick — the president of MARS — said while the organization does not try to be exclusive, it deliberates on any concerns raised by its members about a particular applicant. Two-thirds of MARS’ present members must vote for a candidate to gain acceptance into the group.
“When we take people, it’s because we feel like they can be contributing members of the group and there have not been concerns raised about them,” Mallick said. “It’s not a thing where we’re looking to fill quotas in any way, shape or form.”
Mallick said the group has been “constantly moving forward” and will continue to do so following the post of the rejection letter. He also noted that a lack of physical space for meetings was not a reason for the group’s rejection of applicants.
“We could use rooms in Penn Violence Prevention as well, which would allow us to reach a much broader audience, because that’s really what we want,” Mallick said. “We want to bring as many people into the fold as possible.”
Among the 40 individuals who responded to the original post, 2016 College and Wharton graduate and former Daily Pennsylvanian Business Manager Megan Yan expressed in a comment that the work involved in combating rape and sexual assault on campus far transcends participation in any one student group.
“People too often feel that I’m a good person and I would never do this,” Yan said in an interview. “It’s easy to see yourself like that, but it’s far bigger than the individual.”
Yan hopes that the discussion will engender a more concerted effort by the Penn community to integrate the fight against rape and sexual assault into their daily lives.
“You don’t need to have a formal title or be part of a formal group to be truly committed to working on this issue,” Yan said. “It’s not that I have nailed it or figured it out, but we can all work together and really start to do so more in our personal lives.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.