University News

Greek system alters sexual misconduct policy

Greek Council aims to set zero-tolerance precedent for Brown community, other universities

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Under the new policy, all members of Greek organizations who are found responsible for sexual misconduct will be expelled from their fraternities or sororities and removed from Wriston Quadrangle.

Within the next two weeks, all members of Greek organizations will sign a new zero-tolerance sexual misconduct policy mandating yearly bystander training for members and expulsion from Greek organizations for any student found responsible for sexual misconduct, Greek Council members said.

Signing the policy indicates that a member requests the University remove them from Greek organizations as part of their sanction if they are found responsible for sexual misconduct. The policy was designed this way in order to comply with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act confidentiality rules, said Maggie Johnson ’16, public relations chair for the Greek Council and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Under the policy, only University administrators and staff will know the reason for a member’s removal from a Greek organization.

The second major component of the policy is education. All Greek members are required to go through Sexual Assault and Peer Education training each year during the spring semester, as well as attend follow-up conversations in the fall. A minimum of 85 percent of members are required to be in attendance at these sessions.

The policy also mandates that the Greek Council Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Policy Committee, which was originally formed at the beginning of last semester, continues to operate.

“While Greek Council had a lot to say about the sexual assault issue, we didn’t really have a policy in place to come in and back up what we wanted to say with action,” said Johnson, who chairs the sexual misconduct committee. Johnson added that she and other Greek Council members had been motivated by activism surrounding the mishandling of Lena Sclove’s ’15.5 sexual assault case last year.

Previously, council policy mandated SAPE training for incoming members, but yearly training was not required, Johnson said.

Greek Council wanted to “send a message” to fraternity and sorority members about what behavior is and is not acceptable, said Diego Arene-Morley ’16, a former council member and member of Delta Phi. “As a policy it’s not just responsive, but it’s also directional. We have to be sending a clear message to people that this is something that we take seriously.”

The council also wanted to set a precedent for the administration and the Brown community about the severity of sexual assault, Arene-Morley said. The administration’s current policy is “wishy-washy,” he added.

“I think that these policies should be general policies adopted by everybody,” Eren Can Ileri ’17, the council’s standards chair. The changes may be easier to implement initially within the Greek community due to the small, close-knit nature of the organizations, but they should eventually extend to the whole campus, he added.

The policy is “a small version of what we imagine should be a bigger project,” Arene-Morley said.

The new policy is a “nine-point-five out of 10,” said Emily Schell ’16, the founder of Stand Up!, an anti-sexual assault student group. “I’m very happy that Greek Council is taking steps to codify” sexual assault policies, she added.

But there are some “obvious” aspects of the policy that could be improved, Schell said. Mandating that all Greek members found responsible for sexual misconduct be removed from Wriston Quadrangle merely “pushes the problem elsewhere” and keeps Greek organizations from being able to “police ex-members,” she said.

The 85 percent attendance standard for SAPE training is also too low, Schell said. “You wouldn’t be happy with a B on a paper,” so Greeks should not be satisfied with that percentage of attendance, she said.

“I have to see the fat lady sing on this. All these policies look super nice in writing, but… I want to make sure that gets (implemented) in actuality,” Schell said.

The policy is a work-in-progress and includes provisions for yearly review, multiple Greek Council members emphasized.

Schell agrees that all Brown students should get more rigorous bystander training. “I think in general there needs to be a culture of accountability on this campus. Sometimes your friends will do bad things,” she said.

But the policy is especially important in Greek organizations, where “sometimes you let your friendships and the fact that you’re in the same organization get in the way” of holding people accountable for their behavior, Schell said. “This policy will allow people to say, you know, you signed off on this.”

Greek Council also hopes to set an example for other universities around the country, Johnson said, adding that she does not know of another university that has the same zero-tolerance policy.

“I hope that people will feel safe within the Greek community,” Johnson said. “Although we sometimes promote higher-risk environments,” such as large parties with alcohol service, “we don’t condone the behavior that comes along with that,” she added.

“When you’re dealing with lots of alcohol and other drugs, you raise the stakes on responsibility and behavior,” Arene-Morley said. “There are lots of things that make it seem like fraternities are misogynistic, and rightfully so. There are things that are really problematic.”

But “if any place is going to change that culture, it’s probably going to be Brown first,” Arene-Morley said.

Ideally, the policy will encourage Greek members to “step in and to help their brothers, sisters and siblings create a safe space for each other and for visitors and for the larger community,” Ilari said.

Greek Council is also planning to participate in the national It’s On Us campaign, which encourages individuals to take a pledge to fight sexual assault and rape culture, Ilari said. Greek Council is in the process of creating a video for the campaign that will be released around spring break, he added.

  • Helen Ice

    Scrap the Greek system. Replace Chris Paxson. Fire Margaret Klawunn. None of them is necessary or desirable to a Brown University education.

  • Greek Alum

    Schell clearly isn’t a science concentrator where 85% is often A level.

    In all seriousness though, I agree with her: no reason it can’t be 100% attendance assuming the sessions are offered on more than one day.

  • Greek Student

    As a note on why we can’t have 100% attendance – the training is really meant to be done as a full chapter to encourage the chapter to develop ideas and learn together. Additionally, there are some people who do SAPE training for their job or for athletics who do not with to go through training twice. Furthermore, there are always going to be people in a large chapter who are inactive, on-leave, or non-participatory. Setting lofty goals is admirable, but the idea with the pledge is to create something that is realistic and that all chapters will be able to adhere to. Anyone who has taken the D.A.R.E. pledge knows that unrealistic pledges are ones that people will not take seriously.

    • Greek Alum

      Well 100% attendance could mean 100% have attended the session each year so obviously people who have done it in another context that year would count as having attended.

      The denominator could be logically chosen. Students who are abroad would be exempt and not included in the count. Students who aren’t paying dues are not members and thus don’t count, and if a student is going to be flatly non-participatory then they don’t deserve to be in the chapter. Plain and simple. If people want to take us seriously about this then we have to show that this is a priority and that means few things should come before a chapter’s SAPE training. It’s college, learn time management. There are very few justifiable reasons for missing the training if given adequate notice.

      Now, if the point is to do it as entire chapter, there is some merit to not having 100% – hence my qualifier “assuming it can be offered on multiple days.” You’re saying it can’t be on multiple days if it’s going to fulfill it’s intended purpose – so that’s fair.