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‘Horrific’ attack on LGBTQ house sparks university investigation

When campus officers arrived, they allegedly bonded with the men trying to break in rather than help the residents.

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images, File


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The crowd of men showed up at the house on Thursday night, banging on the doors and windows and yelling: “Let us in!,” “This isn’t your home!,” “This is our home!”

Inside, residents of Fran’s House — an on-campus home for LGBTQ students at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. — locked the entrances and watched from the windows, terrified. They called campus public safety officials as the group of nearly 20 men tried to enter, resident adviser Tyler Luong said in a letter to the president of the private liberal arts school.

Some in the mob urinated on the front porch and swung a metal bar at a flagpole displaying the pride flag, said Luong, who described the assailants as former members of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity that was based at the house before it was banned by the university. When campus officers arrived, he said, they bonded with the men trying to break in rather than help the rattled residents.

Now, university officials have announced the hiring of an outside firm to investigate what they called a “horrific incident.” In a message shared on the school’s website on Friday, a group of university leaders led by Bucknell President John Bravman condemned the alleged harassment and intimidation of the Fran’s House residents.

“We are both outraged and sorrowful that the residents endured this violation of the space that is so critically important to them as a community,” the group wrote. “These actions will not be tolerated.”

Outside investigators will look into potential violations of the student code of conduct, as well as the response from campus public safety officials that was “lacking in myriad ways,” the university officials said.

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The public safety department referred questions to Bucknell spokesman Mike Ferlazzo, who told The Washington Post on Sunday that the university could not comment beyond the letter from school officials. Fran’s House members declined to immediately discuss the incident, noting to The Post that final exams are approaching and that members of the community felt overwhelmed by all that had occurred over the past few days.

They said in a statement that they were “astounded by the amount of advocacy and kindness we have received as a result of this.” They said they were still processing Thursday’s events and called for accountability for those involved.

“Never again should someone feel entitled to come to our home and say it’s ‘their house and not ours,’ ” they wrote.

Fran’s House is named for former Bucknell University Office of LGBT Awareness director Frances “Fran” A. McDaniel, who died in 2011. One of 12 “affinity houses” for students who are like-minded or share common interests, it offers gender-neutral, LGBTQ-friendly housing and sponsors events. School officials described it as “the center of student life for our LGBTQ student community.”

The students moved into their current building when Tau Kappa Epsilon vacated, having lost its status as a recognized student organization. The fraternity’s removal happened two years ago after a university investigation uncovered hazing, including darts being thrown at members and members wearing dog shock collars. The organization is banned from campus operations and does not formally exist at Bucknell.

University officials did not explicitly say who was behind Thursday’s incident, but they said multiple accounts had made clear that the students who descended on Fran’s House “violated the physical space and, far more importantly, the residents’ sense of place and security.”

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Luong said in his letter that he was studying before the men arrived and began yelling to be let in. The first sign of trouble came when residents started shouting at him to come into a bathroom.

“When I arrived,” he wrote, “I saw one of my residents holding down the window, while a bunch of silhouettes stood menacingly on the other side. Can you possibly imagine seeing the fear that was in the eyes of my residents?”

They waited “way too long” for campus public safety officers to arrive, only for the officers to “laugh at the situation.” Luong said the officers reminisced about their college days with the group of men and promised to speak with the chief about getting them access to the house after finals. They did not ask Fran’s House residents whether they were okay, he said.

In response to those allegations, Bucknell University officials said they will increase educational and professional development for officers. They will determine corrective and disciplinary measures for students and officers based on the investigation’s findings.

The university community rallied around the residents, offering counseling and academic support. Faculty and staff members surrounded the house over the weekend, and a march against toxic masculinity was planned. The school officials called on the campus community to continue to show support.

“We cannot erase the ugliness and subsequent trauma of last night’s transgression against the students of Fran’s House and, implicitly, many others,” they wrote, “but we can commit to addressing it in a way that protects LGBTQ Bucknellians and better ensures their safety in the future.”

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