Some women are taking matters into their own hands. (Photo: Getty Images)
Yesterday, officials at Brown University in Rhode Island ruled that two of the school’s fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, had “created environments that facilitated sexual misconduct” at fraternity house events.
As a result, Phi Kappa Psi will no longer be recognized by the university as an official member of its Greek system, resulting in the loss of the fraternity’s on-campus housing. Phi Kappa Psi had hosted a party in October during which two women were given drinks containing date-rape drugs and one was then sexually assaulted. Brown officials said the assault was non-consensual contact that did not happen at the fraternity and did not involve a fraternity member, but was the result of the student’s incapacitation.
Sigma Chi also hosted an unregistered party in October at which a student claims to have been assaulted. The victim, however, was unable to identify her assailant, and Sigma Chi will remain on probation with suspended privileges until the beginning of the fall 2016 semester.
Brown University joins the long list of college campuses with open rape cases — an urgent trend that is expected to be addressed by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20th, after Columbia University activist Emma Sulkowicz, who alleges that she was raped as a sophomore, was asked to attend the event with Michelle Obama.
But now, some sororities are taking matters into their own hands.
A new trend in Greek social life is emerging across campuses nationwide, with sorority houses electing to host their own house parties. The sororities hope that by hosting their own social events, they will be able to create a safer environment for women and reduce the chances of female attendees becoming the victims of sexual assault, reports the New York Times.
Traditionally, these types of events are held exclusively at fraternities.
It is a commonly upheld “myth” that sororities must remain dry as a result of long-standing brothel laws, which declared that serving alcohol in any home with more than four women qualifies the residence as a place of prostitution. This is inaccurate, according to the New York Times article, as the absence of alcohol at sorority houses “has always resulted from the voluntary policy of each of the 26 sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference to preserve more placid living environments with lower insurance premiums.”
According to the New York Times report, most sororities currently pay insurance premiums of $25 to $50 a member, whereas fraternities typically pay approximately $160 a member as a result of the frequent presence of parties with alcohol on their premises.
“I think it makes complete sense for sororities to do this to help protect their members,” says Alyssa Peterson, a policy organizer with Know Your IX, a grassroots campaign run by survivor-activists and allies to end campus sexual violence. “It helps reduce the power dynamic where men set the terms of social engagement on campus, and it provides an opportunity for sororities to collectively ban known rapists from events and hold them accountable through social systems.”
And yet, while this emerging trend among Greek women seems like a promising step, it’s far from a panacea.
“This reminds me of how women’s lives are circumscribed,” continues Peterson. “It’s sad that women aren’t safe at fraternity houses, and…it doesn’t remove the onus on fraternity men to not rape. It also doesn’t necessarily protect male and genderqueer students who don’t belong to sororities.”
It remains to be seen whether President Obama will address the issue of campus sexual assault in his speech tonight, but safe to say, colleges across America will be watching.
What do you think? Would allowing sororities to host college parties help prevent sexual misconduct? Tell us in the comments, below.