By John Ancona || Contributing Writer
As was highlighted in a recent article, our college community faces a perpetual struggle to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. Students, faculty, and administrators must stand united against sexual assault as members of the F&M community; which is one that fosters maturity, equality, and education.
Using a combination of multimedia, peer instruction, conversation, and performance centered on bystander intervention, the baseline amount of sexual misconduct education for a student at Franklin and Marshall College is as follows:
Pre-First Year Orientation:
“Lasting Choices” Program – a 30-minute, online video establishing a foundation of awareness
First Year Orientation:
Sexual Assault Orientation Program – a 2-hour, interactive discussion based on circumstantial perspectives and insight.
These two instructive courses are paired with multiple, but optional educational opportunities such as a night of small group discussion n October, bystander intervention lead by student group MUASA and the YWCA of Lancaster, and the popular “Speak About It” performance in November.
By all means this program, which exceeds federal standards, is well crafted, supported, and executed but it is not exhaustive. I do not intend to imply that there really is any foolproof method of implementing sexual misconduct education that the college chooses not to use here, only that there is a clear gap in continuous education throughout all four years. College is not just one experience, as some people would like to generalize, but it is a collection of four continuous, malleable, and often eccentric years of life. Much of the misconduct education as it stands asks new students to contemplate their actions in entirely new social settings, ones they have yet to experience, and ignores that after year one, students may not see their personal need for more education, thus choosing to skip out on crucial events like “Speak About It.”
Compare this to the recent AlcoholEDU initiative on campus, hol awareness education based on their respective responsibilities like living off campus, and the incongruity is clear. Should we not also have a similar program addressing sexual misconduct?
This brings me to “Fight Rape, Not Frat,” the banner hung outside the Delta Sigma Phi house. The sanctions placed on my fraternity are in response to a sexual assault that occurred at a formal event in the winter of 2013. That the heinous actions of a first year, non-member could condemn an entire organization for two-years, half of one’s the college lifetime, was outside the realm of my organization’s consideration. We agree with and have completed the rehabilitation programs placed upon us for hosting an unregistered event with alcohol, but we cannot accept the insinuation through continuous punishment that our specific fraternity was instrumental in the assault that occurred.
This statement is not dismissive. It is informative: Rape can happen anywhere, at anytime, to anyone. With as much fervor as we dissociate responsibility from victims of misconduct, we reject the notion that any degree of intoxication transforms one into a perpetrator of sexual assault. “But I was drunk,” is never an excuse. This is what we have been taught and this is what the law reaffirms. However, the outstanding punishment seems to say something different.
Our current stasis accomplishes nothing in terms of misconduct prevention, awareness, and intervention and our inability to host social events prevents a large aspect of our functioning as a social fraternity. This is symptomatic of a larger dilemma facing the social scene on campus. Many fraternities are not open and the alternative is the danger of unregulated parties. A large movement has organized to tell the administration that they need to instill positive change by working with us, not against us, and the Greek community is at this heart. Fraternities are tools, they are organized and run by some of our brightest and most passionate scholars here, and to prohibit their activities is to discourage administrative partnership. F&M has never been a place that proves or even condones stereotyping, so why have we allowed the Greek system to enter into this undue light? Fraternities and sororities on campus should not be overshadowed by their status as liabilities but should be lauded, praised, and respected as assets for the community.
Taking down the sign was our choice because the brotherhood understood the potential for re-victimization, but we continue to stand with its message: let’s attack sexual misconduct head on, let’s do it together, and let’s accurately target areas of improvement. Greek life is undoubtedly one specific area, but to seize the ground from under them is a misplaced remedy. Sexual misconduct is the product of the individual. It is the responsibility of each and every member of this community to prevent and respond, “It’s On Us,” and before we cripple vital organizations, everyone needs to consider if they have done enough.
F&M’s Sexual Assault Prevent and Response can be found at: http://www.fandm.edu/sexual-assault-awareness
Dissociating Greek culture with rape culture: