As a female born in 1994, I am afforded many privileges women before me were not. I am able to attend the University, vote and see examples of women succeeding around every corner. My gender has not been a defining factor in my University experience and I have been supported by a community of peers, educators and mentors of both genders and all orientations.
The recent Rolling Stone article and its fallout have highlighted one particularly abhorrent issue that still continues to occur on all college campuses — sexual assault. In many ways the article has served as a rude awakening for national Greek organizations across the United States. Although the details of the assault mentioned in the article have been disputed, there is no question that sexual assault is a pervasive issue both on Grounds and on all college campuses. Thus far, there has been an onslaught of misguided reactionary policies put in place to remedy the ills that have been exposed at the purported problem child of all Greek communities.
The most recent of such policies comes from the mouths of all pertinent national and international sorority chapter presidents. These presidents are requesting that all members of any of the 16 ISC sororities on Grounds not participate in the annual Boy’s Bid Night celebrations. Up until this most recent statement, the argument could have been made that any new National Panhellenic Council stipulations would be made in the interest of unbiased student safety. However, the same cannot be said for this new proclamation. The modern-day presidents of organizations that were founded to foster the rights, community and scholarship of women are resorting to the archaic safety “logic” of “if you don’t want to get assaulted, don’t go to parties.” The irony is blinding.
As a member of the University’s Greek community, and more generally an avid advocate for gender equality, I am appalled. This “solution” does nothing but create vicious animosity between sorority and fraternity nationals and their respective chapters at a time when diplomatic communication is most necessary. This strategy is nothing more than cosmetic and does not even begin to delve into the actual issue of dealing with sexual assault on college campuses.
Sexual assault is not unique or specific to Greek communities; it is an infectious disease that permeates the entirety of a college community. Individual Greek communities paradoxically have the most power in combatting sexual assault given that they are often the largest organizations that exist on any given college campus. Instead of clambering to institute pointed quick fixes, sorority and fraternity nationals should be joining together to create a national coalition that aims to educate individual chapters on college sexual assault. Additionally, nationals from both associations must come together to reflect in order to create thoughtful, unbiased national policies regarding sexual assault for each sorority and fraternity chapter, which would include consultation with the students involved. Until sorority and fraternity national officials take such measured actions, I believe college campuses will continue to have serious difficulty in dealing with the issue of sexual assault, thereby permanently restricting these communities from achieving the larger objective of genuine gender-equality.
Jacqueline O’Reilly is a second-year student in the College and a member of Pi Beta Phi.