The Interfraternity Council teamed up with several campus organizations to host an educational forum for new fraternity pledges on alcohol, cultural appropriation and sexual misconduct.

In the first discussion of its kind, around 450 fraternity pledges gathered in Angell Hall auditoriums for this mandatory seminar over nearly three hours Sunday afternoon. Pledges received presentations from the University Health Service, Expect Respect, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and their fellow fraternity members in a lecture format before breaking into small groups of about 25 for more intimate discussion.

IFC President Alex Krupiak, an LSA senior, organized the educational seminar after conceiving the idea in June. He said though many fraternity members do learn about these issues and ways to prevent them at some point in their first year, he wanted to give new pledges the tools to prevent harmful situations as soon as they join Greek life.

“The whole plan for the meeting was to get new members coming into the Greek community, specifically within IFC, to have some education right away,” Krupiak said. “I really wanted to extend to them education right when they are stepping into the Greek community because they are a part of our community and they are representing it as soon as they become new members.”

LSA senior Nico Espinosa, a SAPAC student volunteer, said though alcohol, sexual assault and exclusion are challenges that affect Greek life on campus and nationwide, working with the new members of Greek life can help curb these issues in the future.

“The reason behind working with new members was they had just joined and we saw this as an opportunity in this challenging time for Greek life to work with the new face of Greek life, this next generation, and send them into their experience with this knowledge so that they would be able to gradually influence their chapters,” Espinosa said.

SAPAC representatives gave the longest and most intensive presentation.

LSA senior Alison Bowman, a SAPAC student volunteer, helped lead the presentation. SAPAC outlined definitions of sexual misconduct and assault, defined explicit consent and introduced them to the concept of bystander intervention.

Bowman said SAPAC showed members the statistics of the University’s campus climate survey on sexual assault released in June which found sexual assault was 2.5 times more likely to impact Greek life members than other community members. SAPAC also noted how verbal pressure and intoxication were the biggest factors leading to sexual assault, according to the survey.

“We really wanted to make sure that the incoming IFC members were aware that sexual misconduct is a pervasive issue on our campus and to empower them to help prevent it,” she said. “We acknowledged that as incoming members to IFC, they are in a special position to take a stand against sexual misconduct that is occurring within their community, as well as our campus as a whole, and to continue to drive its prevalence down moving forward.”

LSA senior Scott Gillespie co-facilitated the dialogue on sexual misconduct. He said while speaking to these new pledges on the importance of consent, he tried to break the stereotypes of masculinity and sexual drive.

He said stepping into a harmful situation does not make a brother “less of a man,” and instead had the pledges list different values of being a man, which do not include sex drive or the ability to drink.

“Myself and the other co-facilitator gave no input, whatever they thought being a man was, we listed those on the board,” Gillespie said. “(It was about) taking those values that they described to us and what it means to be a man and implementing those into how would you deal with these situations as a man.”

CSG Vice President Steven Halperin, an LSA junior, also helped facilitate the SAPAC discussion, and used anecdotes to convey the importance of pledges stepping in to prevent sexual assault.

“It is your responsibility as a man to take care of the people around you, and that is what we were trying to explain to these guys,” Halperin said.

The pledges were given a brief presentation on alcohol abuse in fraternities, which debunked stereotypes of “party culture” within Greek life. Joy Pehlke, health educator at Wolverine Wellness at UHS, said many new fraternity members come into Greek life with the idea that party culture is solely about binge drinking. In her presentation, she stressed that these students can be in a safe environment and still have fun.

Lastly, pledges learned about cultural appropriation and respecting different identities through a discussion led by LSA senior Kidada Malloy, a program assistant with the Expect Respect campaign. With Halloween coming up, she focused on treating different identities and racial groups with respect to make for an inclusive environment.

Comparing this educational presentation to University President Mark Schlissel’s community meeting earlier in September, Halperin said Sunday’s program was much more successful. Though both were mandatory, Halperin said, he found students on Sunday much more responsive because they were able to give their own input and not be talked down to by administrators.

“I feel like this is a step in the right direction; everyone is coming in to help, not to judge, not to talk down to,” Halperin said. “Greek life obviously has its issues and we are trying very hard to revamp it to make a culture of accountability and responsibility.”

Gillespie said the small group discussions made it easy to single out students who were not paying attention or being disrespectful, unlike the large assembly in September. Gillespie said he paid particular attention to making sure each student was attentive to the discussion because it is every single student’s responsibility to prevent harmful situations from occurring.

“It’s the people who are sitting by in corner not doing anything that’s really important and why these meetings are being held,” Gillespie said. “It is the same way that sexual assault does happen: by being passive, by not doing anything about it.”

Halperin admitted that SAPAC leaders who previously did not believe fraternity members could change their potentially destructive behavior told him they “had hope” after listening in to the meeting.

Halperin said though there are certainly problems associated with Greek life, he believes change will happen soon on campus within the community.

“We need to bring Greek life to the forefront of these issues, because that’s where most of these issues are from,” Halperin said. “If we do that successfully this year, I think we can have a special campus.”

Correction appended: Nico Espinosa is an LSA senior, not a junior.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.