Policy confusion in light of WPA results
Similar to other schools, Greek life at Washington University is multifaceted. On one hand, Greek life offers opportunities for community and leadership. On the other hand, like many other clubs on campus, Greek life offers opportunities for partying. Sadly, boundaries are sometimes crossed and abuse occurs. Sexual assault is not confined only to Wash. U.’s Greek system; this is a campus-wide problem that affects students each year. The recently published results of the Women’s Panhellenic Association’s (WPA) survey highlight not only that fraternity partying culture must change, but that campus safety as a whole also must improve. The collective question on students’ minds seems to be, how do we do it?
As I listen to discussions in my own sorority as well as with friends unaffiliated with Greek life, one theme stands out to me: Wash. U. students, Greek or not, are confused about the steps that will be taken by Greek organizations and the University to promote widespread policy changes. Although I am a member of a sorority chapter on campus, I am also only one individual trying to navigate the slew of changing information about sexual assault policies on campus. I have been impressed by my chapter’s outlined suggestions for change, but am still confused by the disjointed nature to enact widespread change across campus. I know that certain sorority and fraternity chapters have met individually to brainstorm suggestions to address party culture, but where is the University’s overarching administrative voice?
Logically, a statement would come from the Office of Campus Life, which oversees various student groups including those within Greek life. However, the only exposure I’ve encountered was through an open discussion forum hosted by Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Austin Sweeney. While I recognize that hosting a forum for students’ questions and concerns is a step in the right direction, I wouldn’t have known about the discussion if I hadn’t been contacted directly by executive officers in my chapter. This highlights a larger problem: Foundational information is available, but it is not promoted by Campus Life or the University to a sufficient extent.
Based on the challenges I’ve run into while researching Wash. U.’s policies about sexual assault, I suggest the following to make information clearer to students:
- An accessible description of the differences between the Campus Life and Title IX offices—with clear distinction as to which organization will handle specific concerns and incidents.
- A more straightforward explanation of Campus Life’s relationship with WPA and Interfraternity Council, as well as with individual chapters.
- A defined path for concerned students in Greek life to work with Campus Life to discuss and suggest changes.
Now, more than ever, the roles of chapter and University leadership play distinctive roles in shaping policies directly affecting students. Although the WPA survey results are specific to Greek organizations, broader questions about campus safety have arisen and must also be addressed. Although I am no expert on this topic, I am concerned that the conversations about improving campus party culture are sporadic. When an attention-grabbing event happens, such as a fraternity being placed on social probation, a natural increase in discussion follows. With more awareness of accessible information, however, a more consistent discussion can be fostered within and between chapters. The goal is clear: Fraternity parties, and our campus as a whole, need to be safer for students.