An international fraternity quickly suspended an adviser to a local University of Minnesota chapter on Thursday after an e-mail he sent to members blasting rape accusers became public.
Donald Powell, 72, had been adviser for Minnesota’s Delta Upsilon fraternity for 10 years before he quit in July after other members expressed concerns that he was socializing with two former students who had been accused of raping a classmate.
Powell responded with a long e-mail sent on July 16, saying of one of the students accused of rape: ‘[His] sin-of-sins was, ‘he got caught’; but he got caught doing far less than many others, ‘including some of you’ have done, and it is ‘that hypocrisy’ that frankly, annoys me.”
He went on to say of the two women who accused the Delta Upsilon members of rape: “I’d like to slap [them] across the face.”
In his e-mail, Powell said he had worked with rape victims in the past at shelters. He included photo attachments of what appeared to be a battered woman, saying “this is what sexual assault usually looks like.”
Reached by phone Friday, Powell, who owns the Los Angeles-based Burbank Entertainment Group, said he’s served as a “surrogate parent” to chapter members for the past 10 years. He said he wrote the e-mail in part because he felt chapter members were being unfairly lumped in with the students accused of rape.
He said he offered to meet and work with rape victims to reduce sexual assault, but they have refused.
“What greatly annoys me is that they are doing ‘nothing’ … ‘nothing’ … to reduce sexual assault on campus, and that they are an insult to everyone who actually ‘has’ been assaulted on campus or anywhere else,” he said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune.
He said he did not know that his membership in Delta Upsilon had been suspended.
“I don’t care,” he said. “I’m really, really over it. I’m over this whole topic and have been for a long time.”
“No one wants to see what actually happened here,” he added, addressing the rape accusations against the former Delta Upsilon members, whose names weren’t disclosed because they haven’t been charged with a crime.
Delta Upsilon said Friday that the chapter is under a redevelopment plan, “working closely with both the university and International fraternity.”
“All fraternity men must take a leadership role in combating sexual assault, and the five undergraduate men remaining in Delta Upsilon Minnesota Chapter are committed to that responsibility,” the fraternity said in a statement. “Sexual assault is a serious issue, and Delta Upsilon will not stand for having members who perpetrate or condone such vile acts, regardless of their age.”
The sexual assault accusations stem from a fraternity party held in 2015 at a northern Minnesota lake cabin, when two members were accused of sexually assaulting another student. After the student reported the alleged assaults to the U, the school expelled one suspect and suspended the other.
In his e-mail, Powell ridiculed the accuser, Kayla Pederson, making a crude joke about her perhaps being touched sexually by a Disney character.
The Star Tribune typically does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Pederson has made her story public.
“After reading this e-mail and seeing those photos, not only am I shocked and disgusted, but also traumatized all over again from his vile opinions of me,” Pederson said. “His words are stuck with me forever.”
After the e-mail was released on Facebook and Twitter, the national Delta Upsilon fraternity responded in a tweet Thursday night that Powell’s membership would be immediately suspended.
“These comments are sickening and abhorrent and have no place in our society,” Delta Upsilon said in a statement Friday. Both of the students referred to in Powell’s e-mail had already been expelled from the fraternity.
A spokeswoman for the fraternity said that Powell has not been an adviser to the local chapter since March. When he attended in July, “they informed him he was not welcome,” the spokeswoman said.
The national fraternity suspended the local chapter in February following the sexual assault allegations. The chapter had 19 members in the spring and is now down to five. In the e-mail, Powell referenced one member who he believed left on the basis of morality.
“But to me, ‘morality’ is not the issue with any of this. If ‘blaming the victim’ has anything to do with these girls showing up with their skirts jacked … up, then ‘yes’, the ‘victim’ bears some responsibility,” Powell wrote. “I guess I have what some may call a ‘street morality’. Street morality takes into account fairness, actions, and intent of all parties. Men can be gentlemen or they can be douches. Women can dress attractively, or they can dress provocatively, i.e., like the [expletive] teasers they intended to be. It’s a two-way street.”