In an Oct. 3 email that shied away from detailing specific offenses, the Emory Interfraternity Council (IFC) acknowledged that Emory Greek life has “serious issues needing to be addressed.” The message declared a self-imposed ban by IFC. However, a temporary halt to Greek life is not enough. Conversely, a permanent eviction of fraternities and sororities from campus is too much. How do we solve what the IFC calls, “intolerable issues of sexual violence … on our campus?”
We’re going to focus on rape, as an occurrence of rape appears to have been the final straw for the IFC. And, more broadly, sexual assault is a persistent problem in Greek life across the country. As reported by the Guardian, fraternity brothers commit sexual assault at three times the rate of the general college male, and sorority members are 74 percent more likely to be victims of sexual harassment or violence than non-Greek women. These numbers reflect studies about national Greek organizations, so take them with a grain of salt with regards to Emory, but Emory can set an example for Greek life on a national scale.
Of course, not everyone is involved in the sexual transgressions that occur in Emory Greek life. But a survey released by the University of Oregon on Oct. 16 thrusts even innocent involvement in Greek life into perspective. Of the Greek women surveyed, 48.1 percent reported having “experienced nonconsensual sexual conduct,” verses 33.1 percent of non-Greek women. For Greek males, the number was 26.3 percent, and 7.9 percent for non-Greek males. When the ante was raised to “experienced an attempted or completed rape,” 38 percent of Greek women reported positive, as opposed to 15.3 percent of non-Greek women. Males of both Greek and non-Greek association reported numbers equal to or equating to zero.
The University of Oregon’s student population dwarfs that of Emory’s, but those numbers are staggering in terms of demonstrating that Greek life not only breeds an environment ripe for sexual deviancy, but that Greek life is a terrifying world for women. Even if you’re innocent, do you want to be associated with that type of social culture?
Consider, for instance, when, in 2010, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University forced pledges to march around campus chanting, “No means yes, yes means anal!” Or the recent incident where the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at Georgia Tech disbanded after an investigation into their sexual conduct, which included a 2013 email that called women “rapebait.”
How have we still not learned to respect women? Do we need to go the route of the middle school dance and insert chaperones at frat parties?
According to the Guardian, “one in five women will be sexually assaulted in four years away at school.” One in five! Are you kidding me? Twenty percent. That is not a small number. That is 20 percent higher than the acceptable number.
I don’t support banishing Greek life. That won’t solve the problem, and Greek life does provide a variety of social benefits â€” such as volunteer opportunities, community building and school spirit â€” that, if taken away, could alienate significant portions of the student population.
Also, who is to say that potential fraternity members wouldn’t find other ways to host their chaotic parties, and even if that magically didn’t happen, how do we consequently tackle the remaining sexual assaults that occur outside of Greek life?
The ideal solution for everyone is that fraternities, and people in general, learn to better police themselves, but you can’t suddenly expect undergraduates to exert diligence to proper behavior when their social lives revolve around the next opportunity to get drunk.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “approximately one-half of [rape cases in which the woman is the victim] involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both.” Is the solution to ban alcohol from college campuses? Um, do you want to be the guy to propose that brilliant solution?
There’s no clear path to clamping down on sexual assault. Emory has avenues for cultivating greater awareness for sexual assault, such as its annual Take Back The Night event and the Student Assault Peer Advocates group. However, we can always do a better job to foster awareness and the key is to shove awareness into the faces of people who are ignorant to the pervasiveness and indiscrimination of sexual assault.
An end to undergraduate sexual violence will occur when every community member makes the definitive, conscious decision to be better than the ugly statistics that stare colleges in the face.
If Emory wants to douse the fire, banning Greek life certainly stands as a justifiable place to start. However, there are too many factors at play to point the finger at fraternities or alcohol or any one culprit. What colleges need are complete cultural shifts in how they approach sexual conduct.
That solution begins and ends with properly educating each and every individual that “yes means yes.” I would be endlessly proud if Emory could find a way to be a leader in asserting that nothing less than that type of assertive, aware affirmation will suffice.
Alex Rosenfeld is a College senior from Allentown, Pennsylvania.