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Students protesting in front of Castle on Sept. 28. Credit: Jesse Zhang

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.

Students are staging protests outside the Psi Upsilon chapter house from Tuesday to Friday this week, urging Penn to respond to an alleged assault by a fraternity brother against another student at a party earlier this month.

The protest, which took place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of the week of Sept. 26 and consisted of a walk-out and sit-in, demanded Penn administration to release a statement on the assault that occurred in the Psi Upsilon chapter house — also known as "Castle" — and demanded that Penn Police take action against College junior and Castle fraternity brother Nicholas Hamilton, the alleged perpetrator. Protesters also demanded that Hamilton be removed from Castle and expelled from the University and that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life remove Castle from its chapter house on Locust Walk.

More than 50 students protested outside the Castle chapter house on Tuesday.

During the protest, students held signs calling for Castle's removal from Locust Walk and chanted for Penn to formally address the conduct of fraternities, including "silence is violence" and "hold frats accountable." Some students also hung signs on the Castle building, some reading "repatriate Castle" and "if you did nothing, you're guilty too."

A security guard, two Penn Open Expression Observers — faculty and staff members who ensure individuals adhere to University open expression guidelines — and a legal observer from Up Against the Law Legal Collective — a Philadelphia-based organization that provides support to protesters — were also present to monitor the protest on Tuesday.

According to a witness of the alleged assault, Hamilton punched the victim between 10 and 20 times at the Castle chapter house on Sept. 4 until he appeared to be partially unconscious, while other Castle brothers looked on and failed to intervene. 

The victim’s brother and a witness suspected that race played a role in the assault, which resulted in the victim being hospitalized. The victim is not affiliated with Psi Upsilon.

Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of Penn Police Maureen Rush told the DP on Sept. 9 that the Office of Student Conduct is currently investigating, and that the Division of Public Safety is "very much aware" of the incident.

On the second day of the protest, around 40 students once again gathered in front of Castle on Locust Walk from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., holding up signs that read slogans decrying the assault and frat culture as several Penn Open Expression staff watched on. Organizers provided food and drinks for protestors, and at various points throughout the three hour period, students chanted “Hold frats accountable” and “Castle must go” as students, faculty, and others walked past.

On the third day of the protest, around 25 students continued to hold signs that criticized frat culture and chant for Penn to hold Castle accountable for the alleged assault. Around 50 students attended the protest on the fourth and final day.

College junior Serena Martinez, who participated in organizing the protest, said on Tuesday that the protest was the result of collaboration by multiple students and student groups. Martinez emphasized the importance of centering the victim's needs and making sure their demands are met.

Credit: Sheil Desai

Students hold signs outside Castle on Sept. 28.

One of the students who attended the Wednesday protest, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said the protest’s most ardent demand is for the University to make a statement about the assault and to reassure the student body that it would not tolerate a hate crime of any kind on campus.

“One of the reasons we’re out here is because no one has said ‘This is a hate crime,’ or even ‘Allegedly, this is a hate crime,’” they said.

A College first year, who asked to remain anonymous, said she attended the protest on Tuesday because she believes students should never condone community violence. The student also expressed concern that fraternity culture creates an unsafe environment for students of color, and that she shouldn't be afraid to walk past a fraternity house.

"I'm a [first year]," the student said. "I'm going to be here for the next four years; I don't want this to be my home."

College first year Abigail Florestal, who also attended the protest on Tuesday, echoed concerns about "fraternity culture" on campus and its effect on students of color, and she said that fraternity culture on campus is prominent enough to make people of color and other minority groups feel uncomfortable.

"I think it’s important to take a moment to recognize the damage that fraternities are doing here and to make sure that everyone feels safe on campus," Florestal said. 

The Latinx Coalition, an organization representing Latinx student groups on campus, emailed University deans on Saturday requesting professors be mindful of the assault and its impact on students, which could range from difficulty participating in class to feeling unsafe walking down Locust Walk. 

"The nature of racial violence, and all hate crimes, is terrorizing; although the attack happened three weeks ago, many just hearing about it now are processing and coming to terms with their positionality at Penn," the email read. "We ask that an email be sent to all professors to ensure they act with the sensitivity of our community at this time in mind. Leniency on their part would show compassion and understanding for all members of their classes."

A petition to remove the Castle fraternity from their house and reuse the building as a central campus space garnered more than 995 signatures as of Wednesday night.

On Saturday, student activists hung 300 posters in prominent locations across Penn's campus — such as the "Split Button" sculpture and the "LOVE" statue — calling for an end to “frat culture.” The posters contained a photo of the Castle house and a QR code linking to the Sept. 23 Daily Pennsylvanian article which broke the news of the assault.

Some students said the ripped posters reflect a broader conflict between Penn’s divided undergraduate community, as the flyers renewed a longstanding conversation about fraternities on campus and whether Greek life, which encompasses nearly 25% of Penn's campus, should be abolished.

College first year Sade Taiwo, who attended the protest, criticized Castle's proximity to the ARCH Building, which houses cultural centers in the basement of the building, including Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, La Casa Latina, and the Pan-Asian American Community House.

“How many times can these [fraternities] not only hurt women, but also hurt a lot of students of color on campus? And Penn just allows them to be here at the center of campus and force a lot of cultural centers into the basement," Taiwo said. "I just think it’s weird. They need to go.”

Deputy News Editor and Senior Reporter Emi Tuyếtnhi Trần contributed reporting.