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UNL chancellor pledges to do more on sexual misconduct training and to support sex assault survivors
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UNL chancellor pledges to do more on sexual misconduct training and to support sex assault survivors

From the What you missed this week in notable Southeast Nebraska crimes and court cases series
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UNL protest, 08.26

Protesters hold banners outside the Phi Gamma Delta house on Aug. 26.

Chancellor Ronnie Green on Wednesday evening told leaders of UNL's student government that he was committed to helping to prevent sexual assault on campus.

Green shared a number of immediate steps he said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will take to protect students, faculty and staff and to support victims of sexual misconduct.

The detailed list includes better and mandated training for students, a response to students' concerns about the inadequacy of existing sexual misconduct training. By the end of the spring 2022 semester the university will be adding in-person sexual misconduct training for all students via a peer-mentor approach.

Furthermore, the chancellor said UNL will add a director of education on sexual misconduct to the Center for Advocacy Response & Education (CARE), as well as look into adding additional mental health support and resources for students.

By the end of the school year, Green said they are hoping to move the LGBTQ+ center, the women’s center and the CARE office into Neihardt Hall, providing additional space for added resources.

“These actions are just first steps based on what I’ve heard from students, faculty and staff,” Green said. “I am committed to doing more and to having an ongoing dialogue with students across our campus community.”

Students and demonstrators gathered five times over recent nights to protest after an alleged sexual assault was reported to campus police, although leaders on Wednesday called for a two-week break.

Protesters, once a united group of mostly students, first gathered outside the Phi Gamma Delta house on Aug. 24 after a 17-year-old UNL student told campus police she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old member of the fraternity earlier that morning. 

On four consecutive nights last week — and again at a candlelight vigil on Monday — demonstrators gathered at or near the Fiji house, calling for the fraternity's permanent removal and for other sweeping changes that would address what organizers say is a campus culture that promotes sexual assault. 

But after Tuesday night's planned gathering was shifted online 30 minutes before it was set to take place, and after organizer Dominique Liu-Sang announced a two-week break in protests altogether, a separate group emerged, vowing to continue nightly gatherings.

"We're losing our chance to really make a difference in the national spotlight," UNL sophomore Carter Wenburg told the Journal Star on Wednesday. 

Wenburg, acting alone for now in his role as organizer of the divergent group, gathered in front of the fraternity with a small group of people on Wednesday night. 

His announcement came less than 30 minutes after Liu-Sang, who has been among the most vocal organizers at UNL over the last week, announced to her followers that all protests would be suspended until Sept. 15.

Liu-Sang's post came about two hours before demonstrators had planned to stage a sit-in at Canfield Hall, which houses UNL's administrative offices. In the post, Liu-Sang, who did not respond to a request for comment, said organizers were falling behind on schoolwork and taking time off to reexamine their message, which she said isn't only about Fiji.

"That has been overlooked," she said in the post. 

Green temporarily suspended Fiji — already on probation for previous violations of university policy — on Aug. 25, about 36 hours after the sexual assault was reported. In the days since, a sexual assault was reported to have happened at the Sigma Chi fraternity, mere blocks away from the Fiji house. 

Demonstrations evolved in the days after Green announced Fiji's suspension, focusing less on the fraternity and more on survivors of sexual assault. After masses of student-protesters spent the first two nights of demonstrations largely directing chants at the Fiji house, Thursday's protest saw a notable shift in tone. 

Wenburg, though, said he hopes to restore protests to the energy and attendance levels seen in the first two nights. On Aug. 25, more than 1,000 attendees marched through UNL's downtown Lincoln campus, chanting expletives aimed at university leaders, the fraternity and the 19-year-old student accused of rape. 

"I want to make sure Fiji knows that they're not off the hook," said Wenburg, who was seeking survivors and advocates to speak at Wednesday's gathering. "But, in a broader sense, I want the rest of Greek life and the university to know that they're not off the hook, either."

About two hours after Wenburg posted his announcement, Liu-Sang shared his post on her Instagram story — a feature that allows users to post images that last for 24 hours — in an apparent endorsement of the gathering, scheduled for 10 p.m. 

The Instagram page "shutdownfiji" had not weighed in as of Wednesday afternoon. Though it's garnered more than 30,000 followers since it formed last week, the shutdownfiji page has often trafficked misinformation. 

Last week, the page shared images that indicated the accused student had left the country, prompting many demonstrators on Aug. 25 to carry signs referencing his purported trip to a tropical beach. (The student did not leave the country, UNL police told the Journal Star). 

And on Tuesday, the page shared screenshots of an Instagram account connected to the accused student, though commenters quickly pointed out the account was fake.

Shutdownfiji deleted the post shortly after, later posting that the false information was intentional and that "you shouldn't believe everything that is in front of your eyes." The follow-up post was later removed as well. 

"Literally people are now saying 'hashtag shut down the shutdownfiji page,' because there's so much misinformation being spread right now," said Kiara Williams, a UNL student, advocate and organizer who has worked alongside  the student who operates the page. "And that is very harmful to the cause." 

The organizer who runs the page did not respond to interview requests. 

Wenburg said the misinformation broadcast from the shutdownfiji page is what, in part, motivated him to post his own announcement on Wednesday. That, coupled with the prospect of a two-week break in protests, compelled him to act, he said. 

"Taking our foot off the pedal is going to take the pressure off of our leadership at UNL," Wenburg said. "I want to keep the pressure on UNL."

Williams, a senior who said she was recruited by Liu-Sang to help lead demonstrations after the first two chaotic protests, said organizers will seek to maintain a visibility on social media and on campus during the break from protests. 

UNL students gather to support sexual assault survivors as additional cases emerge
Watch Now: Fourth night of Fiji demonstrations ends with confrontation between protesters and police
Third night of Fiji protests focuses on survivors, continues call for cultural reckoning at UNL

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or awegley@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @andrewwegley 

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A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

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