How WU fraternities and sororities are supporting rape culture

Cameron Kinker | Class of 2016

Last June, Republican representatives Matt Salmon of Arizona and Pete Sessions and Kay Granger of Texas submitted a bill into the United States House of Representatives that has been deemed the Safe Campus Act. This bill, if passed, would prevent college campuses nationwide from investigating sexual assault cases unless the police are also involved in the investigation. In doing so, it would “allow schools to use higher standards of proof in determining guilt, making it more difficult to remove a student accused of sexual violence on campus.”

Logically, this bill has been deemed as destructive and dangerous by various colleges and universities as well as advocacy organizations. By involving the police into every sexual assault case that is brought to the attention of a university, students are less likely to report their assault and seek necessary and vital resources that places like Wash. U. has, because they are forced to choose between two options: involve the police or have no investigation at all. No other crime will be held to this standard; students victims of robberies or other crimes on campus can request investigations by the University that do not involve police.

It is also important to note that certain identities have a history of fraught relationships with law enforcement, primarily communities of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. This is important, since the recent AAU Campus Climate Survey noted that transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming (TGQN) students are more likely to experience sexual assault while in college and also less likely to report compared to cisgender peers.

On Oct. 29, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill wrote letters to three fraternity presidents at the University of Missouri calling attention to the National Panhellenic Conference, North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Kappa Alpha Order, the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the Sigma Nu fraternity’s decision to lobby to pass this harmful piece of legislation. I find it deplorable that Greek organizations, sites that are breeding grounds for sexual assault, are using their energy and resources to actively promote a piece of legislation that silences victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault. Importantly, Sigma Nu has an active chapter on our own campus yet has done nothing publicly to raise alarm over their national headquarters’ actions.

I would be remiss to call out Sigma Nu exclusively for their national organization’s actions since all fraternities and sororities that are members of the NIC and National Panhellenic Council (almost every chapter on our campus) are implicit in supporting this bill. As a survivor of assault myself and a former member of Sigma Nu, I have seen firsthand the misogyny and rape culture that is bred within the Greek community on our campus and implore all fraternities and sororities to take action in ensuring that their national headquarters’ and affiliates prevent this harmful piece of legislation from passing. I also know, from my time in Greek life, that there are people who care deeply about social justice and the issue of sexual assault who are also members of Greek Life. I hope that they are not the only people who raise alarm about this disturbing lobbying effort. I implore all fraternities and sororities at Wash. U. to take an active stance in protesting the Safe Campus Act and demand that their national organizations stop funding this campaign to silence victims of sexual assault.

  • Emily McNish

    “Student Life Reporters Support Punching Puppies! Click Here to Learn Why!”

    Do I have your attention? Great.

    I am so embarrassed that a student-run newspaper at such an esteemed university as WashU would lower its journalistic integrity and standards to use click bait headlines to drag its own students through the mud. Then again, this is Student Life and journalistic standards and fact-checking the Greek
    community has never been the newspaper’s strong points. As a WashU graduate who donates regularly to the university and as a former Panhellenic council president (who regularly funded sexual assault awareness/prevention programming for the Greek community), it is incredibly upsetting that you would defame all of WashU’s Greek members (over one third of WashU’s entire undergraduate student population) with “supporting rape culture”. Thank you for acknowledging in the body of your article with the one line, “that there are people who care deeply about social justice and the issue of sexual assault who are also members of Greek life”. Just an editorial note, another way to say this would be “Greek life members care about sexual assault issues on campus”. It is not fair to lump all Greek members together when it is convenient for you (for a negative spin), and then when it is a positive issue label this same group of people as students who happen to be in Greek life. Choose one.

    Cameron, I am not attacking the content of your article, I think we are on the same side of this issue.
    I personally disagree with the actual legislation and wording of the Same Campus Act. However, I do agree with its intent to address sexual assault on campus head-on and to involve the Greek community, as student and community leaders, to accomplish this. As an active alumna in the Chi Omega and greater Panhellenic community and as a current advisor to Chi Omega at the University of Denver, I will continue to encourage everyone that I work with and advise to do everything they can to address sexual assault at our universities (whether it happens in a fraternity house, or anywhere else on campus). It is incredibly disappointing that the important message and call to action you are
    so desperately trying to get out will be muddied by the fact that you insulted they very people whose help you are seeking. If you actually want to help and solve the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, you need to empower and encourage your fellow student leaders instead of smearing their name to increase “clicks” and “likes” for yourself.

    • brydy23

      While I think you make some valid points Emily, I’d just like to point out that this is not an officially endorsed article written by Student Life. Op-Ed’s are not subject to journalistic integrity…it’s an opinion from an unaffiliated author.

      • Wayne

        By choosing to post this submission StudLife is unquestionably endorsing the article assuming that they actually read and scrutinize the information they choose to make public. When you do a Google search, their name is now on the article along with the guy who wrote it. It’s unfortunate that a respectable WashU student’s Op Ed piece was tagged with a click bait title, yes it worked and got some people to read it, but hey why not consider the people your exploiting as actual humans and not as fuel for your article. Being in Greek life doesn’t make you any less of a human and any more deserving of the cyber bullying tactics that you guys are using to shame a massive group of individuals.

      • mpritch

        Just because an op-ed piece is someone’s opinion (affiliated with the newspaper or not) doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be subject to journalistic integrity. There should still be standards of truthfulness regarding any factual information in the piece that the newspaper is responsible for vetting before publishing the article.

    • n’importe qui

      I think it’s worth pointing out that there is a difference between fraternities/sororities as corporate bodies and as groups which are reducible to individuals. There may be individuals in Greek Life who are concerned with social justice, but until the corporate bodies make a stand, they essentially default to the political positions of their Conferences and headquarters, and the headline of the Op-Ed, clickbaity or not, still stands.

  • WesleyNukem

    FYI, Phi Delt and Kappa Sig aren’t NIC members.

  • Sarah H.

    How is this any different from other kinds of mandated reporting? Sexual predators need to be behind bars, not protected by misguided campus bureaucrats. Notifying law enforcement means that they can be brought to justice, hopefully before they attack additional victims.

    • Sarah T.

      In theory, it would be great if these criminals could be held to higher standards. In practice, there are many communities that have fraught relationships with law enforcement and would feel safer not reporting at all, if the alternative choice was being forced to trust and have active relationships with law enforcement. That is the danger in this bill–that those people (already vulnerable due to countless social factors i.e. racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) would feel like they have no SAFE place to report. The effects of this bill would be to silence them, even if that is not the bill’s explicit intention.

      I think there needs to be more education and dialogue about this bill before we blame anybody for not speaking against this (where hopefully, once they understand the problems, it will be an obvious choice as you’ve explained). They may not be versed in the effects of the law–only its explicit intentions (which were intentionally written to seem like they’re on the side of survivors, that’s on the shoulders of the politicians who wrote the law).

      • Sarah H.

        Sorry, but I still don’t buy it. Campus bureaucrats are simply not equipped to handle the investogation of a sexual assault case. That’s what we pay the police for. And it’s not like WUPD wouldn’t work with the victim in a reasonable way.

        I’m not saying victims shouldn’t have support from the administration (they obviously should; otherwise I’m even more clueless as to what our tuition dollars are actually going to), but this is what the police are here to do.