05/01/2014 06:30 pm ET Updated May 01, 2014

Frat Emails Stir Old Sexual Assault Grant Controversy At American University


The recent leak of emails from an unsanctioned fraternity at American University, in which male students joke about sexual assault and physical assault, has rekindled controversy over the school's failure to apply for a $300,000 federal grant to combat sexual violence in 2011.

Three years ago, students, faculty and staff at the Washington, D.C.-based university prepared to apply for a U.S. Department of Justice grant for resources to prevent sexual violence and support victims. The grant would have funded a victim advocate, training for school officials, and an annual survey asking students whether they had experienced "unwanted sexual intercourse" or endured "forced sexual touching or fondling."

An online petition posted after the fraternity email leak last month demands essentially the same things the grant would have funded. More than 2,300 people have signed.

As TBD reported in 2011, the DOJ-backed grant would have blocked students from registering for classes if they failed to attend seminars on healthy relationships and sexual violence, or didn't complete the surveys.

In March 2011, Gale Short Hanson, American's vice president of campus life, decided against applying for the grant, citing concerns about blocking students from registering for classes. Students responded with demonstrations, to no avail.

Now that the campus is in an uproar over an underground frat one student called "rapey," students are reminding the school administration about how angry they were that university ditched the anti-sexual violence grant.

The women's activist group UltraViolet launched an online ad campaign this week, claiming AU "has a rape problem."

Hanson this week defended her decision to pass on the DOJ grant. "We did not achieve support or consensus among members of our community prior to the deadline for these requirements," Hanson said in a statement to HuffPost Wednesday. "Instead of applying for the grant, we committed to look at the goals and methods the grant addressed, and worked with our community to provide them with our own resources."

Hanson noted American has since hired a full-time sexual assault prevention coordinator and has created its own required programs for new members of official Greek organizations and student athletes.

"We have also instituted bystander intervention training, and all new students are expected to complete online education through, which includes Haven –- a segment on sexual assault," Hanson said.

The frat emails that leaked in April were from a fraternity called Epsilon Iota that is not sanctioned by the school. The university said it is investigating the messages.