Public concern

GVL / Courtesy - Mike Clark, MLive Grand Rapids
Jesse Bernal speaks to the crowd gathered inside of the Grand River Room in Kirkhof during the sexual assault townhall on Tuesday, April 5, 2017.

Mike Clark

GVL / Courtesy – Mike Clark, MLive Grand Rapids Jesse Bernal speaks to the crowd gathered inside of the Grand River Room in Kirkhof during the sexual assault townhall on Tuesday, April 5, 2017.

Sanda Vazgec

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As part of the
event schedule, the Grand Valley State University student senate and the Division
of Inclusion and Equity hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 4, to discuss
upcoming events and update the community on recent strides made by the
university and student organizations.

However, the conversation quickly steered toward the topic
of rape culture and fraternity life after a social media storm surrounding
former elected student senator Patrick Borum was brought up as the first
question during the Q&A portion of the meeting. 

Social Media Storm

Borum, a previous member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, was elected
to the 2017-18 student senate after receiving 201 votes from the GVSU student
body during the elections held from Monday, March 27, to Saturday, April 1. He has since resigned
from his appointment on senate after major backlash following a Facebook status
he posted Tuesday, April 4, stating, “Rape culture isn’t real.”

This post came after members of Greek Life were asked to
take a survey regarding sexual assault, which Borum said cast a
negative light on Greek Life.

Borum said he neither supports nor condones rape or
sexual assault and believes his Facebook post was not interpreted correctly.  

In a previous interview with the Grand Valley Lanthorn, Borum
stated, “I believe that the idea that our American culture accepts,
encourages, or tolerates rape/sexual assault on a widespread scale is
false. I believe that most people are good and that most
people are disgusted by even the thought of rape or sexual assault. There will
always be exceptions, but I believe that we do not live in a society where rape
is encouraged.”

Borum said he chose to step down from his elected position
after receiving numerous messages telling him to do so.

“I received many hateful and threatening messages from many
members of the senate body which disappointed me severely. I was being told
that my beliefs, although well supported, were invalid,” Borum said via email.
“I chose to leave the group because it’s clearly not worth saving or helping in
any way. The GVSU senate group can enjoy virtue signaling to each other while
the real world bases arguments on facts and statistics, not emotions and

Student Concern

Many students took to social media to express their concern
and disagreement with Borum’s post.

Students posted tweets directed toward Borum linking
articles about rape culture, statistics on rape and how many assaults are reported,
including how these actions have historically been dealt with in a court of

Others took screenshots of his social media posts adding
comments of his views being “unacceptable, disgusting and messy.”

Various students voiced these concerns during the town hall
meeting as well.

GVSU student Maya Grant brought into question the number of
sexual assaults connected with fraternities and if fraternities are utilizing
enough resources to educate their members about the topic.

One student also criticized student senate for not releasing
a stronger statement and officially denouncing Borum via social media.

The student senate president, Ella Fritzemeier, said she did not
feel posting a message bluntly directed at Borum on social media was the
appropriate avenue to deal with the situation because Borum had already
resigned and was no longer affiliated with student senate.

Fritzemeier added that she wanted to keep the topic of the
town hall meeting on its original purpose.

“I think the focus of today should be how as a community are
we going to come together and continue furthering this discussion (about
awareness and education),” Fritzemeier said.  

The conversation subsequently shifted back to Borum’s posts
after one student expressed concern about him not willing to apologize for his

When asked by the Lanthorn if he feels he is well educated
on the topic of sexual assault, Borum stated, “I believe I am well educated in
general and am certainly able to form my own opinions just like anyone else.
The difference between myself and many of my peers is that I’m not trading
facts for feelings. 

“No one is questioning whether rape occurs, or
whether rape is wrong, or whether rape is illegal. I’m calling to question the
claim that Americans are okay with rape. This is the short-form definition of
rape culture: excusing or normalizing rape. I believe our school and our
country alike do not encourage rape, excuse rape (or) apologize for rapists.”

Borum said he was aware of the town hall meeting but could
not attend due to having prior engagements he was required to tend to.

Kappa Sigma Fraternity

Around 30 members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity were in
attendance at Tuesday’s town hall meeting.

“While we did have great numbers here, probably in
accordance with what happened, we had already had a number of people that were
signed up to come here (before Borum’s Facebook post),” said Dane Gardner, a member
of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. “Once Patrick said that, we were really adamant on
showing that (what he said) was not representative of us as a whole.”

A GVSU student did call into question a tweet posted by the
GVSU Kappa Sigma account that stated, “It is very ignorant to say ‘Rape culture
does not exist.’ However, denying the existence is FAR from giving support for the

The student was specifically concerned with the second sentence
of the tweet.

“Whoever tweeted that I’m assuming was part of our PR Chair, and
once we found out that is what was said, we all as a total did not agree.”
Gardner said. “Once we saw that, we said, ‘That’s not acceptable; we don’t feel
that way.’ They shouldn’t have made an executive decision to say something like
that on their own.”

That tweet has since been deleted. 

“We’re constantly trying to rid of the conception that it is
statistically more probable for fraternity men to be involved in sexual
assaults,” Gardner said. “In this organization, we don’t want that to be what we’re about. We
want to take it up firsthand to show that fraternities are more about
philanthropy, brotherhood and fundraising.

“We want to see
Greek Life not only remain on our campus but in this country, and we want to get
rid of that conception that it’s strictly a bad thing, strictly about drinking,
strictly about sexual assaults. We had already planned some events regarding
(the topic of) sexual assault but especially from here on out we are taking
full action.”

GVSU Kappa Sigma has since released the following statement via

“We do not accept or identify with what @(Borum’s Twitter handle) tweeted.
RAPE CULTURE IS REAL, whether he understands that or not. We are embarrassed.”


Joshua Perez, president of Kappa Sigma, also released the
following statement:

“The members of Kappa Sigma apologize for the gross, pitiful
and downright disrespectful social media post by Patrick Borum. This is being
looked into by our executive board and will be handled swiftly. We as Kappa
Sigmas pride ourselves on treating others with the respect and compassion they
rightfully deserve.”

In response to the comments made by the fraternity, Borum
stated via email, “The brotherhood in this chapter should be seriously
questioned. I think it is ridiculous that a group of men, men I called
brothers, would be willing to slander and chastise me, if it meant saving face
with individuals who are outraged, misinformed men and women alike.” He added
that the fraternity should separate an individual’s personal and political
beliefs from those representative of any group.

Borum has since resigned from the Kappa Sigma Fraternity and
no longer holds any affiliation with the organization.

Town Hall Meeting Results

Aside from the discussion about Borum and the Kappa Sigma
Fraternity, one student brought up the lack of call boxes on campus.

Fritzemeier and GVSU Police Chief Renee Freeman responded by saying the implementation of call boxes has been heavily discussed
at GVSU but findings from research conducted on the topic have found that cell
phones are more useful in cases of emergency.

Another student rebutted, stating there are students on
campus who cannot afford cell phones or that many find their phones die late at

Andy Beachnau, vice provost for student services and director
of housing and health services, took to the podium to talk about the recent
lighting and sidewalk put in along 48th Avenue and the relationship the
university has with off campus apartments.

“We have something really unique here in the fact that we
regularly communicate with one another in what I call a neighborhood watch with
the township, the sheriff’s department, GVPD, myself and other administrators,”
Beachnau said. “We spend a lot of time thinking about not only the on-campus
environment but the off-campus environment.”

Beachnau added that lighting projects will be continued to
extend lighting and sidewalks from 42nd Avenue to 48th Avenue as well as along
Pierce Street. Lighting will also be extended to 52nd Avenue.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for inclusion and equity, took
time to thank the student leaders, administrators and staff who have worked to
end sexual assaults on college campuses and gender based acts of violence.

Ashley Schulte, victim advocate for the GVSU Women’s Center,
talked about recent strides made by organizations on campus through programing,
education and bystander intervention training. She also discussed a leadership
summit staff will be attending to learn what other universities are doing to
combat sexual assault and previewed some of the events planned for Sexual
Assault Awareness Month. A full list of events can be found at