Update: On January 31, 2023, the Municipal Court of Philadelphia found that the individual accused of engaging in the alleged assault described in this article, Nicholas Hamilton, was not guilty of any misconduct. Further details of the DP’s coverage of that individual’s exoneration can be found here.
Student activists dotted Penn’s campus with hundreds of posters calling for an end to “frat culture” in response to a Psi Upsilon brother assaulting another student at a party.
The flyers were hung in prominent campus locations, such as the "Split Button" sculpture; "LOVE" statue; "Covenant" statue, which is commonly referred to as the Dueling Tampons; and the steps of the Psi Upsilon — known on campus as “Castle” — fraternity house, depicting the message “END FRAT CULTURE.” The posters contained a photo of the Castle house and a QR code linking a Sept. 23 Daily Pennsylvanian article, which broke news of the assault. A student who designed the posters and helped hang them, who requested to remain anonymous, said that approximately 300 posters were hung in total.
A Castle fraternity brother, College junior Nicholas Hamilton, seriously injured a Penn sophomore at a party held at the Castle chapter house earlier this month. According to a witness of the assault, Hamilton punched the victim, who did not fight back, between 10 and 20 times until he appeared to be partially unconscious, while other Castle brothers looked on and failed to intervene. Both the victim’s brother and a witness suspected that race played a role in the assault, which resulted in the victim being hospitalized.
By the end of the day Saturday, many of the posters that were once hanging were found in trash bins around campus, with multiple students witnessing their peers tearing them down.
Some students said that the ripped posters, in large part, reflect a broader cultural clash among Penn’s divided undergraduate community. The flyers have renewed a longstanding conversation about fraternities on campus and whether Greek life, which encompasses nearly 25% of Penn's campus, should be abolished.
College sophomore Jo Howard said that she was surprised to see a group of women tearing down posters near the Castle house this afternoon and throwing them in the trash. She said that she approached one of the women to ask her why she was taking the posters down, to which the woman responded that the posters were “too negative” and told her that the incident was “just an alleged assault, so it's fine.”
Later in the day, Howard said that when she walked down Locust Walk with her friends, nearly half the posters that she saw earlier in the day were torn down.
“We put back up the ones we could find, but there were a lot of them in pieces or in the garbage,” Howard said.
A petition to remove the Castle fraternity from their house and reuse the building as a central campus space garnered more than 100 signatures as of Saturday evening.
While Howard said she was grateful that the posters spread awareness of the assault, she does not agree that all fraternities should be abolished. Instead, Howard said she believes Castle alone should be kicked off campus because of the assault.
“There's plenty of people in Greek life who would never allow this kind of behavior to happen. Yes, fraternity and sorority culture really needs to change in my opinion, but I don't think this particular incident merits kicking every frat off campus or banning all of them,” Howard said.
Like Howard, College senior Tara Yazdan Panah said that she saw a group of women by Fisher Fine Arts Library this afternoon taking down posters as they walked around the area.
Panah said she asked one of the women why she was taking the posters down, and the woman told her that she doubted that the assault occurred and that there are two sides to every story. Panah, shocked, said that she chose to walk away from the woman rather than argue.
“I felt really guilty afterwards and sad, honestly, because I should have said something more. I should have defended the person that got assaulted. I should have just talked about the fact that frat culture is dangerous and the statistics prove that, but in the moment, I was just so shocked that I didn't pursue it.”
Later in the day, Panah said she saw a male student take down another poster that was hanging.
"This isn't just one group of people — this is many people who are just going around frustrated that people have complaints about frat culture, and taking things down,” Panah said.
The posters reflected a phenomenon that College sophomore Rylee Saunders Jackson said she learned once she stepped foot on campus. Fraternities, she believes, “are kind of untouchable.”
Jackson said that she is not hopeful that Penn administrators have the “backbone” to hold fraternities accountable because she fears the University would not want to displease alumni donors who may have been in Greek life.
“Penn, in general, needs to hold fraternities more accountable for what they do, because I know that alumni who were in fraternities send in a lot of donations,” Jackson said.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy and Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara L. Greenfield King both previously declined to comment on whether Castle or Hamilton will face consequences from Penn.
College senior Jessica Bao, a former DP copy staffer, said that the posters demonstrate the “mounting public pressure” that Penn administrators now face to resolve the incident in a fair and expeditious manner.
Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of Penn Police Maureen Rush told the DP on Sept. 9 that the Division of Public Safety is aware of the incident and the Office of Student Conduct is investigating.
“It honestly makes me really sad and angry that Penn had basically 20 days ahead of this article coming out and the public knowing about it, and they did nothing public facing," Bao said. "Maybe they were doing their own investigation, but it should not take this long. It's not that complex of a situation.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that the Office of Student Affairs is currently investigating the incident. The Office of Student Conduct is investigating.