By Sonam Vashi
Assistant News Editor
After one month of quiet on Eagle Row, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) unanimously voted to end its self-imposed suspension of social activities in fraternity houses Tuesday night (Dec. 2) and created a working action plan with several short- and long-term steps to address issues surrounding sexual assault.
The suspension was implemented on Nov. 3 in response to a Nov. 2 report of a sexual assault and other past reports of sexual assaults at Emory fraternity houses. According to its Nov. 3 statement, the IFC said it would lift the social ban “once we have produced tangible and proactive steps mending the flaws in our social culture at Emory,” and that the pause would be used to “reevaluate how we address the intolerable issues of sexual violence, substance abuse and discrimination” on Emory’s campus.
The resulting action plan is a “living document” and creates steps addressing sexual violence, event management and communications surrounding fraternity life, according to the document. The plan includes steps like requiring registered bartenders or Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS)-certified fraternity brothers to serve alcohol at fraternity parties, creating a Safe Walks program and requiring party themes to be approved by the Office for Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL). Find the latest version of the action plan here.
After the creation of this report, IFC will now enter a public feedback stage of the process to solicit comments from community members, other Greek councils and other non-Greek student groups, according to IFC President and Goizueta Business School senior Brian Diener. Students and community members can provide feedback to the plan online here.
According to Diener, the IFC took a step back to focus on how to amend the problems facing Greek Life during the ban.
“We started the ban. . . after a history of no response, and we said we would lift it when we were comfortable on the progress we made,” Diener said. “You’re not going to fix sexual assault or substance abuse in a couple of weeks. They’re public health issues. But I think we were comfortable with where the plan is at right now.”
The end of the social ban was only communicated to each of the chapter presidents, IFC presidents and the administration. Diener said that IFC is working to send out an all-Emory students email about the end of the social ban, similar to how its beginning was announced through an all-Emory email from Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair.
Diener said that IFC did not want to extend the ban for an unnecessarily long time.
“We never had a set timeline,” Diener said. “Our goals were always to feel ready and comfortable with the plan, and I think that’s where we’re at right now. . . This was IFC focusing on our own issues, and we wanted to make sure that we were focusing on those issues first, and then we would talk to the public.”
The plan “holds IFC members accountable for their actions to accomplish these goals, but also serves to help [IFC] communicate our progress to the broader Emory community,” according to the document.
The ban suspended all registered parties in fraternity houses, although off-campus events, educational events like November’s “Salon” at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house, some brotherhood events and some recruitment events were allowed, according to Diener, who also said that there were no violations of the ban other than two excepted semi-formals, which were approved by IFC. Because the suspension has now been lifted, fraternities are now able to host official parties.
In the introduction of the action plan, the document states that, as part of IFC’s “duty to provide a safe and supportive environment for [its] members and guests, [IFC believes] the proposals in this document will improve [its] community and foster lasting relationships that offer real impact.”
Diener said the formulation of the action plan was a positive process.
“I think it’s created a lot of awareness in the community and created a lot of interesting conversations in the community,” Diener said, noting that each of the 11 fraternity chapters wrote a statement on how it would individually respond to sexual assaults at fraternity houses.
The 13-page document outlines existing policies, short-term goals and long-term goals for the three areas of sexual violence prevention, event management and communications and programming. The document states that IFC aims to complete the short-term goals upon the transition to the new executive board in January 2015, and long-term goals by fall 2015.
In the area of sexual violence prevention, the document points out several existing procedures and programs in place to “confront the root causes of sexual and relationship violence head on,” such as Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and Sigma Delta Tau sorority’s “Safe, Smart Dating” and the Office of Health Promotion’s (OHP) Greek Initiative conversation partnership, according to the document.
The document also notes that eight of the 11 fraternity chapters include Sexual Assault Peer Advocate (SAPA) training in their new member education experience, although the plan does not include SAPA training for all incoming members of IFC chapters.
Short-term solutions include the creation of an IFC Liaison to OHP that would “update and communicate relevant programming to IFC members; coordinate ‘The Talk’ with chapter executive boards; help chapters plan their semesterly education programming and consult with outside perspective on actions IFC can take” in regards to policies, according to the document.
Additionally, The Talk, a Respect program initiative for Greek life that allows small groups to initiate discussion about expectations relating to communication and intimacy, will be required of all chapter executive boards and the IFC executive board, according to the document.
For long term goals, the IFC plan aims to require each chapter to host one event a semester to address either sexual violence or substance abuse with at least a 75 percent attendance rate required. If this attendance is not met, the chapter will face social probation, according to the document.
Another change will be made to the Greek 101 New Member Training Program, with IFC partnering with OHP to utilize OHP’s new Active Bystander Skills training, according to the document.
The long-term projects for event management calls for either a licensed third-party bartender to work an event or a TIPS-trained and identified brother who is responsible for handling the proscribed beer check station, according to the document.
“I think that’s important because it takes the onus off of individuals and creates a third party for handling the situation,” Diener said. “For trained members, IFC is going to be very strict on people going through the training process.”
Additionally, the Safe Walks program, a new initiative created by College seniors Oliver Paprin and Cara Ortiz beginning next semester, will provide a pair of trained students to walk students home who are uncomfortable walking from Eagle Row across campus to their rooms on Friday and Saturday nights, according to the document. This programs draws on existing initiatives from other schools, according to Diener.
Building on the past two years’ worth of changing risk management policies, including the Sorority-Fraternity Life Review Board, nightly walkthroughs of fraternity houses and the recent implementation of card readers at registered parties, the IFC plan wants to clarify definitions of events at houses.
For example, a guest list party is open to anyone on the guest list, a mixer is restricted to members of the two organizations mixing and a date party has one predetermined guest per sponsoring member, according to the document.
Other changes include an increase in communication about guest expectations, medical amnesty for organizations and a requirement of risk managers from non-IFC organizations co-hosting events in the house, according to the document.
Additionally, IFC calls for the University to provide an alcohol education program that extends beyond the current AlcoholEdu for first-year students and an increase in communication between House directors and chapter leadership.
The final area of recommendations and changes deal with a lack of communication between IFC members and the community at large, noting they have been “unsuccessful in maintaining relationships with other groups and student organizations on campus.”
As an existing step, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life created a system for reviewing and sanctioning party themes within Greek life, according to Diener. This change came after feminist groups at Emory have previously criticized potentially or overtly sexist fraternity party themes over the past few years.
Before January’s changeover in the IFC executive board, they hope to require new recruits for fraternities to attend a panel in their residence hall to hear expectations of the Greek community, an email introducing first-year men to IFC’s history and expectations and an expansion of messaging through social media, small-scale programming and a strengthened partnership with the Office of Residence Life.
For the long term, IFC aims to draft a new mission statement that better aligns with new programs and efforts to closely align IFC values with the values of the community.
Additionally, IFC Vice President of Housing and College senior Nicholas Sommariva, who assisted in compiling the report, was happy that the document incorporated a lot of ideas from a lot of people.
“We tried our best in writing this living document to encompass everything and everyone while still being comprehensive and practical,” Sommariva said. (Sommariva is a former editor at the Wheel.)
When asked why the ban was lifted before the end of the semester, Sommariva said that there was much discussion about the timing of the cessation of the ban.
“A lot of conversations were had about when to end it, how to end it, is it right to end it, etcetera,” Sommariva said. “We didn’t feel that waiting to get feedback was necessary because the plan could never be a catch-all, end-all.”
Sommariva added that he thought keeping the ban in place solely to get feedback from others wasn’t going to help anything, because he thought the community had taken the time to step back, reflect and learn and that the work isn’t done nor will IFC not continue to work with anyone on the plan.
College senior Anusha Ravi said she thought the document was impressive, had great ideas and did a good job of incorporating other groups that already exist on campus, but she said the work is not done.
“This is a longer conversation; it’s not going to end with this plan,” said Ravi, who is also the vice president of facilitator training for SAPA and Co-President of Feminists in Action. “This is a really good start, but the issue merits more time.”
As for moving forward, Diener said that IFC plans to meet with other student groups and has created an online form where people can submit feedback anonymously.
“Our ban was different than a lot of schools’ bans,” Diener said. “It was appropriate during this time to take a step back and reflect and establish our way forward, producing something tangible.”
– By Sonam Vashi, Executive Editor and Stephen Fowler, Asst. News Editor