Interfraternity Council board member speaks out on ‘absurd,’ ‘vile’ statement IFC posted last week on reported sexual assault in the Cathedral of Learning


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Students gather during a protest against sexual violence in the Cathedral of Learning on Oct. 7.

By Rebecca Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

After B. read the first slide of the statement the Interfraternity Council posted to its Instagram account, he immediately knocked on his roommate’s door to ask him if he was “crazy.” B., a member of IFC’s eight-person executive board, wanted confirmation that he wasn’t imagining the thinly veiled “misogyny” and “chauvinism” within the post.

The statement addressed the reported sexual assault inside the Cathedral of Learning earlier this month and subsequent student protest, saying the assault was “disheartening, dishonoring and sickening.” It went on to say men should examine their behavior to prevent assaults from happening, and that fraternities aren’t defined by the stigma associated with sexual misconduct.

Pitt students within and outside Greek Life pushed back against certain sections, including one claiming that recent sexual assault incidents on campus prove that “anyone, including you or me, has the capacity to conduct harmful behaviors whether that be under the influence of a substance or out of desperation.”   

Another section that faced censure encouraged men to “strengthen themselves both physically and mentally” seemingly to prevent sexual assault because a “man’s life is difficult, and he has the sacred duty to become strong to handle such difficulty.” 

B., which is a pseudonym, asked to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation from Pitt’s Greek Life. Text conversations obtained by The Pitt News and B.’s story show that Michael Liu, a senior and the president of IFC, didn’t consult the rest of the board or the Collegiate Panhellenic Association before posting the now-deleted statement last Wednesday — which both groups and the University urged him to remove.   

“I was taken aback because I couldn’t tell whether it was stupidity, incompetence, ego or genuine misogyny that caused him to do that, or maybe a combination of all these things,” B. said. 

Liu didn’t respond to multiple interview requests sent to his personal and IFC president email addresses. He also didn’t respond to an email asking for his comment on allegations that the statement was misogynistic, chauvinistic and not representative of Pitt’s Greek life. 

In a group message with the IFC executive board, Liu said while he knows “this post may seem controversial and easy to be taken by pieces,” he will “[observe] the majority of the reactions” before making a decision on whether to delete it. After another board member advised him to delete it — saying “we will catch absolute shit for this” — Liu took down the post. It was up for between one and two hours. But he immediately posted an identical version to his personal Instagram page.

Read the full statement below. 


Soon after Liu posted the statement to IFC’s page, Panhel executive board members urged the group to take it down, according to screenshots obtained by The Pitt News. 

“I understand the idea behind the message, and I appreciate the lack of silence on the issue, but I hope you can take into consideration Panhel’s concerns about some of the potential implications of the wording. We would love to help rework it and send it back out,” Panhel’s president, senior Marideth Tokarsky, said in a group chat with Panhel and IFC executive board members. 

Tianna Staten, a junior and Panhel’s vice president of member education, also said in the group chat that while she thinks “everyone’s heart is in the right place … the message is not being received well at all.” 

“It’s in the best interest of IFC (and Panhel by association) to take it down, or, at the very least reword it. It’s coming across as super problematic and performative and I know that’s not the intentions behind the message,” she said. 

Tokarsky didn’t respond to multiple interview requests. Staten directed her response to Tokarsky.   

B. added that the line saying anyone has the “capacity to conduct harmful behaviors” is “absurd,” and pointing to inebriation and desperation as the root causes of sexual assault is “vile.”

B. also wasn’t surprised Liu re-posted the statement to his personal account, saying Liu often gets “very ingrained in his own beliefs” and can be “sometimes hard to reason with.”

“The fact that he reposted it on his own personal page is a testament to him just being unable to see that what he’s saying is just absolutely absurd,” he said. “I don’t think in his post he should have ‘To Interfraternity Council members’ and at the very end have ‘President of IFC.’ If he wants to send out that message, it should be independent of our organization, because none of what he’s saying I support.”

In the group chat, Liu apologized for not informing the board before he posted the statement.

“My intention to address the issue with IFC members remain the same and we can have a [discussion] about that for sure,” he said. “This is a lesson for me and I appreciate you all understanding.” 

A Student Affairs spokesperson told The Pitt News in an unsigned statement that when the office found out Liu posted the message to the IFC Instagram page, they asked that it be removed. The spokesperson said the office recommends that students post personal statements to their personal social media accounts, not student organization accounts. 

“The University of Pittsburgh supports the right of our community members to exercise their right to free speech,” they said. “We are dedicated to supporting an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment for each member of the Pitt community.”

In response to a question about how the University would respond to the incident, Student Affairs said the office is still considering “next steps” and that “conversations are on-going” between the IFC adviser, Richard Fann, and the fraternity and sorority community. 

“We are eager to work with our students moving forward to continue learning opportunities and increased engagement in topics that are meaningful to our entire community,” they said.  

On his personal page, Liu faced criticism from students, although a few applauded his message with clapping hands emojis. He deleted the post between Thursday evening and Friday morning after The Pitt News contacted him for comment. 

Negative comments ranged from “Yeah, I always feel like I could accidentally sexually assault someone when I’m inebriated” to “Why are you pretending that sexual assault is an act of desperation or stupidity? Or minimizing it by calling it ‘engaging in harmful behavior?’ Men aren’t being dumb or feeling lonely. It’s a conscious act and it’s evil. Assaulters and people like this who perpetuate this narrative need to take some fucking responsibility.” 

Sam Mueller, a senior politics and philosophy and law, criminal justice, and society double major who commented on the post, said it’s “embarrassing that [Liu] decided to use [his] position to elevate [himself] and focus on men instead of listening to the women around [him] on how [he] can help.”

B. said a better statement would have expressed support for the community and victims of sexual assault, or explained the importance of bystander intervention for IFC members — more closely mirroring statements from other student organizations. For example, Student Government Board expressed its “solidarity with survivors of sexual assault” and called on the University to “take action to make Pitt a safe environment for everyone and to better support survivors.”

Moving forward, B. said he hopes Liu resigns or is removed as IFC president — in part to prevent further damage to IFC’s reputation. Many people have criticized fraternities across the country for contributing to sexual violence on college campuses.

According to IFC’s constitution, someone can be removed from the executive board if they fail to uphold the IFC constitution or IFC bylaws or don’t follow Pitt’s Student Code of Conduct or the Pitt Promise. An executive board member or fraternity chapter president must motion for dismissal at a regular IFC meeting, and voting members present must pass it. Then, a committee appointed by the adviser will “investigate and make recommendations” on the proposed dismissal at a special meeting one week later. At that meeting, three-fourths of voting members must pass a removal.

“If this gets brought to the public’s attention … I think it would be enough for him to look at himself and say ‘Hey, maybe I shouldn’t be in this position,’” B. said. 

Editor’s Note: Liu worked at The Pitt News briefly in 2021.