The Coalition Against Fraternity Sexual Assault publicly removed Penn Democrats from their group on Tuesday. CAFSA said in a public statement that Penn Dems was removed because they endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president, a figure who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault.
CAFSA, an on-campus organization officially founded in September 2019 to combat rape culture and support historically underrepresented minorities, released their statement in a Google Document on Twitter. CAFSA's document highlighted allegations made against Biden and denounced Penn Dems’ response to the allegation that the former vice president had sexually assaulted Senate staffer Tara Reade in 1993.
"We are writing this statement not only to criticize Penn Dems for endorsing a sexual predator for President, but also to reinforce our commitment in supporting and believing survivors," CAFSA's statement read.
According the CAFSA's website, all clubs in the coalition "support the cause to expel fraternities from Locust Walk and replace them with cultural centers and wellness." By listing their club on the website, they are "committing to the cause and pledging solidarity."
As Biden clinched the presidential nomination by securing the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and all major former Democratic rivals, discontent among the activist left has crystallized in a "never Biden" movement. These debates are also playing out on Penn's campus. In the past few weeks, Penn for Bernie mirrored the nationwide discontent among some on the left by not following Sanders' lead in endorsing Biden. The group said their members are free to vote how they wish and maintained they would not support the former vice president.
Now, groups like CAFSA are revealing their opposition to Biden's candidacy, removing the political group that endorsed Biden from their coalition and labeling the presumptive Democratic nominee a sexual predator.
Penn Dems has urged the Biden campaign to investigate and formally address Reade's allegation, as well as stating that Reade "deserves to be heard." Penn Dems is still maintaining its endorsement. CAFSA said in their public statement they found the group's response "insufficient."
CAFSA did not respond to request for comment from The Daily Pennsylvanian.
CAFSA also revealed in their statement that the group had unanimously voted to remove Penn Dems from their coalition membership, and then physically from their website, immediately after their endorsement of Biden. At the time, however, CAFSA did not officially contact Penn Dems regarding their removal.
In an emailed statement to the DP, Penn Dems said it was disappointed by CAFSA's lack of communication and "clear expectations for coalition members," although they remain committed to CAFSA's goals and respect the group's decision.
"We believe that it is harmful to exclude survivors and allies from the coalition by discrediting their desire to bring about critical political change, especially change that is essential to combating sexual violence," Penn Dems' statement read.
Earlier this month Penn Dems sent an email to their listserv that recognized April as National Sexual Assault Awareness month. The email also mentioned Penn’s sexual assault rates, Reade's allegations against Biden, and the group’s survivor support system as a CAFSA signatory and Anti-Violence Education Network certified student group.
CAFSA's Google Document statement includes a detailed timeline of events regarding the organization's actions about Penn Dems' revocation. According to this timeline, Penn Dems' April 12 email prompted an unnamed CAFSA affiliate to call Penn Dems members "a spineless bunch of rape apologists" in CAFSA's GroupMe the same day. CAFSA said that this member's message did not speak for the group as a whole, and said the incident prompted the organization to create guidelines for GroupMe messages and require permission from all coalition members to use CAFSA's name.
Following the GroupMe incident, CAFSA officially informed Penn Dems of their removal from the coalition, explaining the reasons for their removal and also apologizing to sexual assault survivors within the Penn Dems community for language used in the GroupMe.
CAFSA admitted that the group apologized to Penn Dems for making “mistakes” when removing them from the coalition, and said they have now created formal policies about removal process — however, they remain firm in their decision to kick out Penn Dems. CAFSA said they have also outlined new coalition member expectations that they plan to publicize in the coming week.
“The way in which they handled the split was also deeply hurtful and antithetical to their mission, but we thank them for their transparency in the second piece of their statement and for their apology.” Penn Dems wrote. “We will continue to fight for violence prevention on campus and in the political realm, an issue for which Penn Dems has advocated for years.”
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