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RUSSO: Barriers to entry

Requiring fraternities to use guest lists provides no obvious safety benefits

To quote a recent Jezebel article written by a University alumna, “Everyone’s ready to move on.” The entire University community was under the microscope last semester, with perhaps the most scrutinized institution being Greek life. Despite the emotional toll that the Rolling Stone article and its aftermath took on our community, we must remain in dialogue about how to move forward.

One of the stipulations of the new Fraternal Organization Agreement is that “a security agent provided by an IFC-approved vendor must remain at the entry point throughout the duration of the function” and that “a printed list provided to the security agent by the fraternity must exclusively dictate the approved guests for the function.”

I presume the purpose of the list is to provide a record of who was at what fraternity party in order to counteract the notion that fraternity parties are chaotic dens in which sexual assault is rampant. However, requiring fraternities to keep lists will not ameliorate any safety concerns on a more than cosmetic level. In addition, this requirement may negatively impact the University’s social atmosphere in a way that can have tangible safety consequences and might take us a step back rather than forward.

In theory, fraternity guest lists provide a clear record of who was present at a party on a given night. In practice, this may not work. From what I have heard from friends and peers, many fraternities have compiled lists of several thousand people, likely including certain sororities and fraternities with whom that group may often socialize. The concern with this is twofold. First, students may simply use the name of someone else (whom they know would be on the list) in order to gain admission to a party. Second, from what I have seen so far, the security agent is only present at one entrance to the house. Many fraternity houses have two or even three entrances. The language in the FOA leaves some room for interpretation. However, the security agent loses any real purpose if only positioned at one entry point. If an instance of sexual assault were to occur, but the person entered either under another name or through a back entrance, the fraternity or individual member involved would be able to use this record to deny the allegation completely.

Although safety is clearly the most important consideration in terms of the FOAs, we should also consider how this new barrier to entry might impact the University social scene as a whole. Leading up to this past weekend, many messages were sent out to my sorority to “like this if you want to be on the list for [insert fraternity here]’s party on Friday.” It became clear to me that as a member of the Greek community, I now had restricted access to fraternity parties, many of which were formerly technically open to anyone. Fraternity events should not just be for members of the Greek community. Many would argue fraternity parties were exclusive even before the FOA changes. However, the formalization of this exclusivity will likely only worsen this concern.

Those who don’t have friends in fraternities who can put them on the list might not want to go to fraternity parties anyway. I am certainly not arguing that fraternity parties are the safest social outlet. However, first years are the most likely not to know anyone in fraternities, and also largely do not have access to bars. Exclusivity aside, the lists will increase drinking in first year dorms, a major safety and liability concern for the University.

According to the IFC’s Agreement Referendum, the changes “seek to achieve a safe environment at fraternity events by addressing high-risk drinking, sexual misconduct and unhealthy power structures.” Although some of the changes — such as requiring the presence of three “sober and lucid” brothers — is a clear step forward toward improving safety at these events, the requirement of a list strengthens unhealthy power dynamics rather than weakening them.

Although I am not an expert on sexual assault, I do not see how lists will make fraternities safer for those who enter. In conversations about sexual assault last semester, one thing that was always highlighted was the notion of the negative impacts of “barriers to entry.” Students should not be entering fraternity parties under the pretense of owing something to the person who put them on the list.

The media coverage of the Boys Bid Night ban provided evidence that the University is nowhere near out of the national spotlight after the events of last semester. The Greek community has been especially questioned, and we should be wary of exacerbating tensions which have existed within our community even prior to these events. While from an outsider’s perspective it may seem as if this change to the FOA would have positive implications, we must continue to evaluate how these new dynamics are playing out within our community.

Mary Russo is a Senior Associate Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at