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Ole Miss investigates sexual harassment claims at frat event

Royce Swayze and Bracey Harris

The Clarion-Ledger

Co-chairs of Sigma Chi annual philanthropic initiative Derby Days, Sam Fowlkes and Conner Ball, pose with Lily Elliot, who received the proceeds from Derby Days on behalf of Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital.
Co-chairs of Sigma Chi annual philanthropic initiative Derby Days, Sam Fowlkes and Conner Ball, pose with Lily Elliot, who received the proceeds from Derby Days on behalf of Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital. Special to The Clarion-Ledger

The University of Mississippi’s Title IX office has launched an investigation after allegations surfaced on social media that men of the Sigma Chi fraternity asked sorority members questions tainted with sexual innuendo on a loud speaker system in front of hundreds of students at the closing festivities of Derby Days, the fraternity’s annual philanthropic initiative.

In a Facebook post that has garnered well over 1,000 shares, Ole Miss student Abby Bruce said she left the competition early almost in the tears, after contestants were encouraged to answer inquiries with explicit references to oral sex such as  "which Sigma Chi would you go down on?"

In a Youtube video from the event a contestant is asked by one of the emcees, "what's your fondest memory of the Sigma Chi basement?"

After her response, a fraternity member joked, "her nickname is BJ."

"If there are great guys in this organization, I have to wonder where they were tonight and if they were there, why they didn't try to stop some of the things their brothers were doing. Or why they weren't the ones with control of the microphone," Bruce said in the post.

On Saturday, the university announced the school’s Title IX office was looking into allegations of unacceptable behavior.

"If substantiated, the behavior reported at this event clearly violates campus policy and one of the UM community’s core values, which is for our students to show respect and dignity for all,"  said university representatives in a statement.

Representatives of Sigma Chi fraternity told The Clarion-Ledger that they acknowledged the questions as a “mistake” and described them as a “last-minute thing” that deserved a much more thorough review before being asked to sorority members at the event, and that they were considering how to address the issue of the inappropriate questions before Bruce published her Facebook post.

Clay Wooley, president of Sigma Chi fraternity, reached out to apologize to every sorority president and Bruce.

“We want to take a good, hard look at ourselves and our culture as a Greek organization and really put this out there for everybody, to see it and to realize it that there were some mistakes made and there were some intentions that were lost,” said Wooley.

Max López, who is the vice president for the fraternity, said that the incident can be used to open a dialogue to change Greek culture for the better.

“Derby Days is such a storied tradition that we have at this chapter specifically that it’s been able to maintain a lot of traditions that have been carried from a different age,” said López, “So it’s up to us as leadership and it’s up to everyone in the Greek community as a whole to come together to expel these relic traditions that don’t have a place in today’s time and age anymore.”

The Sigma Chi fraternity is currently under an internal investigation regarding the events of this past weekend.

Derby Days is a long-standing philanthropic tradition for Sigma Chi fraternity that dates back to the early 20th century. This year, Derby Days stretched over a week that included activities such as a blood drive, a 5k run, and a dance competition, the successes of which depended heavily on the participation by sorority members. At the end of Derby Days, over $25,000 was presented to Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the dance competition, where the incident reportedly took place.

Read Sigma Chi's open letter to the student body and watch a video at The Clarion-Ledger.

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