In the past week, vandals have repeatedly defaced property at the prestigious University of Texas-Austin, spray-painting a hammer and sickle symbol and words like “rapist,” “racist” and “kill frat boys” on at least four fraternity houses.
Last Friday, the vandals published an anonymous manifesto on It’s Going Down, a website that describes itself as “a media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements.” In it, the vandals urge students to join them in terrorizing fraternities.
The self-professed “Vandals of UT” say they are responding to no specific incident but “the everyday crisis that is rape culture, white supremacy, and elitism.” Their goal is “the destruction, looting, and emptying out of these halls of power by the force of the unruly masses—the excluded and exploited,” adding that they hope to “inspire other insurgent acts.”
“Let us make it impossible for the administration and frats to simply wait out the occasional uproar, and let us constantly agitate against them and make their lives hell,” they wrote. “Let us make racists, frat bros, and the administration afraid again—afraid of students, afraid of the marginalized and harassed, afraid of the exploited and excluded.”
The manifesto also says that that Greek life was targeted in part because “the Greco-Roman legacy has inspired so much of the march of European civilization against the ‘uncivilized.’”
“Continental philosophy finds much of its roots in the Socratic tradition,” the anonymous manifesto says. “Our notion of democracy and all its accompanying inequalities and hierarchies stems from the Greek conception of the polis, sustained by slavery, the domination of women & children in the home, and the battle against foreigners. In the midst of resurgent fascism and ongoing colonial legacies, we must become the unruly, improper, unrespectable ‘barbarians at the gate.’”
Instead of unequivocally condemning the vandalism, several on-campus groups seemed sympathetic, suggesting that the fraternities had it coming.
In an interview with the student newspaper, Mia Goldstein, the president of the campus group Voices Without Violence, said that while there were “more productive ways to handle rape culture… those who did [the vandalism] did start a conversation that’s absolutely necessary.”
Goldstein singled out the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, which came under fire after in 2015 after a Redditor posted a document that was allegedly the fraternity’s confidential rules for pledges; they included “no interracial dating,” “no Mexicans,” and “no fagetry [sic].” That same year, the fraternity hosted a party that Phi Gamma Delta described as Western-themed, but critics said was about the border patrol.
“I think with the history of racist parties and racist pledge rules and also just rape culture in general,” Goldstein said, “[the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity] especially is culpable for that, so while it’s not nice to spray paint, those are valid labels.”
Similarly, Alexandra Vanderziel, co-director and founder of Steps for Survivors, told the student newspaper the graffiti is “what happens when sexual assault is not being taken as seriously as it needs to be.”
“When people aren’t feeling heard or listened to, this is how they’re going to feel like they need to make their voices heard and stop letting crime be pushed under the rug or not taken seriously,” she said.
By deadline, Goldstein and Vanderziel did not respond to Heat Street’s repeated requests for an interview.
The Interfraternity Council said in a statement to Heat Street that its fraternities have worked in recent years to prevent sexual violence and raise awareness about it, even partnering with Goldstein’s campus group.
In a statement last week, the president of the University of Texas condemned the vandalism, saying administrators “will not tolerate vandalism and threats targeting our students.” The university is investigating the incidents. Police have increased patrols, and the university is also reviewing surveillance tapes, the local NBC affiliate reported.
The alumni advisory board for the Pi Kappa Alpha told Heat Street that the fraternity has been an important part of the University of Texas community for nearly a century.
“We regret the current environment where a few students are suddenly using threats of harm and property damage to malign UT fraternities,” the alumni advisory board said in a statement. “[Pi Kappa Alpha] alumni and undergrads as well as the students’ parents are acutely aware of the insensitivities, indignities and assaults that have regrettably occurred at colleges across the country for decades and are committed—along with most of our peer Greek organizations on the Austin campus—to say ‘not on my campus’ and live [fraternity] values which include respect for all, and, yes, that old-fashioned belief of being a gentleman at all times.”
By deadline, the other three fraternities targeted did not respond to Heat Street’s request for comment.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.