Fraternities need to acknowledge role in sexual assault

Emma Brown and Erin Hallenbeck || Photography Editor and Contributing Writer

Here’s how F&M’s social scene is set up: Greek life dominates it.

For all the loft parties and pre-games, the majority of parties on campus are held in fraternity houses, some open, some closed. These open parties are publicized, with flyers slipped under doors, Facebook messages, and general word of mouth. Because open fraternity parties are registered with the school, the administration even sanctions these public events. At the actual parties, brothers stand outside the door and control who goes in and out, partly to adhere to the fire code. Let’s be honest, though. We all know the rumors that brothers allow all women, first semester men, and those on “the list” in. A so-called blacklist is even in place to keep unwanted people out. The other rumor we all know is that there are “good” and “bad” frats. Some frats are “rapey,” some are “tame,” and some are where you go to get cocaine. Of course, frats aren’t the only place to party, but they are the most accessible. Loft parties are often reserved for sports teams and if you don’t know anyone, you’re not going.

However you feel about it, this is how many people perceive the social scene. It cannot be contested that like most American colleges and universities, we have a problem with sexual assault. F&M is one of the 85 postsecondary institutions that have pending Title IX sexual investigations1. This past academic year, 25 cases of sexual misconduct, stalking, and domestic violence have been reported 2. The overall environment of fraternity parties contributes to these statistics. In addition to controlling who goes in and out, brothers also draw the crowd into a dark basement, which elicits the feeling of being trapped. On all sides, you’re pressed in by people and concrete. Although there are other well-lit sections of the house, the majority of the party takes place in these basements and it is there that alcohol is easily available. A study done in 2009 found that 80% of sexual assault on college campuses involved alcohol3.This is one of the many reasons fraternities perpetuate rape culture. They are main suppliers of alcohol on campus and therefore create an environment that allows sexual assault. A Delta brother himself affirmed that social events, are “a large aspect of our [Delta] functioning as a social fraternity.”4

Simply put, if fraternities are holding the party and providing the alcohol, they are responsible for whatever happens under their roof. More than that, if brothers are actively controlling who is allowed in to these parties, they should be actively scouting who they let in. It is easy to say “how could we have known,” but brothers should be aware throughout the night of who is in their house, not just at their door. Some fraternities have systems in place where sober brothers patrol the party for inappropriate behavior. Several female students have confirmed brothers stepping into threatening situations where a man has gotten too close. If you can let people in, you can kick people out, and some people are.

This is not to say that all members of a fraternity are rapists. As all previous contributors have said, rape is the crime of an individual. It should not be assumed that if one member or even a guest of a fraternity commits an act of sexual assault, the entire fraternity is a perpetrator of rape.

However, when an institution tries to absolve themselves from the crime, it excuses them from the situation. If they are excused from the situation, the issue will never be resolved. Fraternities must address what happens under their roof and take the necessary steps to correct and prevent it. While Delta has “completed the rehabilitation programs placed upon us for hosting an unregistered event with alcohol,” it is not enough to simply address the immediate problem. What instead must be addressed are the fundamental institutional issues that allow these crimes to occur.

One of these fundamental issues is that fraternities rarely or explicitly address sexual assault. In February, a talk with President Porterfield was held for new brothers regarding sexual assault. Porterfield praised F&M Greek life as a model for colleges and universities nationwide, but the issue of rape was never explicitly mentioned. While Porterfield touched on sexual assault prevention, the tone of his speech commended Greek life for their impact on campus. Rather than a speech that glosses over the issue, the first step is forcing the uncomfortable conversation. The administration and fraternities must directly address sexual assault. The talk concluded with the trite and true motto, “you are always wearing your letters.” Yet, why is the fact that a brother is wearing his letters a better reason to follow the law than simply being a good person?

Once again, direct discussion is key to solving fundamental issues. Orientation programs are in place to educate new students on sexual misconduct, but it is not nearly enough. While the school sponsors campus events such as Take Back the Night, The Vagina Monologues, Speak About It and organizations such as MUASA provide bystander intervention programs, these events are optional. The people who willingly go to them are not the problem, and this model is the same for other problems on campus. The reality is students need to be forced to be educated on these topics.

Connections courses, for example, should be re-formatted to address issues of sexual assault and discrimination. Mandatory conversations need to be had to bolster a safe environment where these crimes do not occur. Instead of having a three-semester curriculum on separate, finite subjects, connections should have at least one semester dedicated to themes pertaining to social justice.

Sexual misconduct and discrimination can be looked at from multiple perspectives and still teach students how to write and think at a college level. Interesting and diverse texts can be found in these areas. In the course of a college career, there is plenty of time to take classes in multiple areas of studied. That is the point of the general education requirement. If anything, education is our greatest weapon.

Ultimately, as non-Greek affiliated students or men, we do not know the ins and outs of fraternities. We can only go off of public perceptions and our own experiences.

However, these insights are valuable because they reflect campus culture. As members of this campus, we refuse to allow for our institutions, such as Greek life and the administration, to exonerate themselves from instances of sexual assault. These institutions are the foundation of our community, so they cannot be excused from the issues. They must step up and take responsibility on this campus. While it might be on “us,” problematic institutions are part of the “us.”

1 “U.S. Department of Education Releases List of Higher Education Institutions with Open Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations.” U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Department of Education, 1 May 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

2 Hazlett, Margaret L. “Franklin & Marshall College.” Franklin & Marshall –. Franklin & Marshall College, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

3 Yoffe, Emily. “The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted.” Slate. The Slate Group, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

4 Ancona, Jon. “Administration, Campus Misplace Blame for Sexual Assault.”The College Reporter. Franklin & Marshall College, 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2015

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