In an effort to create a safer party environment, members of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association are considering new ways for members of sororities to take a more active role in risk management at parties.
Though national sorority policies for each of the houses are a complex set of varying rules and regulations, Greek Life officials think that by working together a system can be devised that would allow the sororities involved in IFC-sponsored parties to shoulder some of the risk associated with hosting a party.
Panhel Vice President of Social Responsibility Michelle March said a task force was created to consider how to have a more even distribution of responsibility between the men and women in Greek Life and to enhance the overall safety of the registered events.
“The Panhellenic Executive Board is extremely invested in promoting the safety and health of all our Greek members,” she said. “We feel this can best be accomplished by having women in more active risk management positions at registered events.”
But these changes could conflict with national sorority organizations’ policies about placing women in more active risk management roles.
According to Linda Kahangi, executive director of the national organization of the Alpha Phi Fraternity, Alpha Phi has a few standing rules that might make it difficult for its members to participate in risk management at IFC-registered parties. For example, the sorority can’t co-sponsor events at fraternities if they have alcohol.
Though the national organization prohibits the University’s chapter of Alpha Phi from co-sponsoring a party — making it as liable as the fraternity it’s working with — Kahangi wrote in an e-mail that allowing members to take on a more active risk management role isn’t out of the question.
“Alpha Phi is open to working with its collegiate chapters to grant waivers to some policy specifics when a comprehensive plan is created that addresses all risks and ensures the collegiate women are safe,” she wrote in an e-mail interview.
Panhel Vice President of Public Relations Stephanie Lazarus said the specific role of the women at these functions has yet to be determined, but right now Panhel is focusing on creating the task force and getting chapters involved.
“We were worried that people might be hesitant but the chapters in general are very excited to become more active,” she said.
Lazarus said the role of women at the parties would be viewed more as a “helping hand” to fraternity members and they will not be taking on the formal role of sober monitor, leaving them less liable.
“A term we’ve been using lately is that the they would be a liaison between the men and the women,” she said.
Lazarus added that having women involved in risk management will help make sure the rules are followed at the party and bring comfort during the “God-forbid-this-happens” moments.
“If something bad happens, the girls might feel more comfortable interacting with a woman from their own chapter instead of a fraternity member they may not know, regardless of how nice they may be,” she said.
Though placing women in risk management roles would help partygoers respond to any incident, Lazarus said the creation of the task force isn’t in response to an increase in incidents. Instead, it’s a goal that the current executive board wants to implement before it leaves.
The task force will begin working at the start of the winter semester. The members of the group will work on a final proposal that will be voted on at the end of the semester. The proposed plan will then be implemented in the upcoming fall term.
“Essentially, the role of the Task Force is to aid the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council Executive Boards in making future decisions about the social climate of Greek Life here at the University of Michigan,” the proposal for the task force states. “Currently, conflicting national policies exist so together, we, as a community, would like to formulate a plan of action that will effectively work for all members.”
Lazarus said the process is going to be “a lot of trial and error.”
“There’s no one (policy) that I’m aware of that all the chapters have in common,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of investigating into the policies and a lot of discussion and dialogue.”
IFC President Ari Parritz said he’s very supportive of the policy and is excited to work with Panhel to implement it.
“The guys have 100 percent of the responsibility and any measure to more equally share, divide or split the responsibility, we’re more than interested in that,” he said. “We have nothing to lose and we only have to gain from this.”
Lazarus said giving the women more responsibility will not only make the parties safer, but will benefit the women as well.
“The women really need to take ownership and create something they think works for them knowing their policies for their individual chapters,” she said.