Greek community aims to address sexual assault, behavioral problems

Vice President of Governance in the Inter-Greek Council Harrison Shapiro, a member of the fraternity Theta Chi, whose house is pictured above, is one of the several people participating in efforts to prevent sexual assault in Greek Life spaces. Katlyn Kreie / The Tufts Daily

The Inter-Greek Council (IGC), the Greek Life Anti-Sexual Assault Initiative Task Force and the broader Greek community are working to prevent sexual assault and behavioral issues in Greek life this semester.

The efforts to reform Greek life have included the hiring of sexual misconduct prevention specialist Alexandra Donovan last July, training and initiatives to ensure safer Greek social events and increased communication within and outside of the Greek community.

Donovan said she is working to help the IGC determine specific ways to make social events hosted by Greek organizations safer. She began by giving all the Greek organizations training on how to prevent assault or other dangerous situations in social settings.

“[The IGC] asked me to design a training specific to what my responsibilities would be if I were the host of a party,” she said.

According to Donovan, most of the houses have gone through the two-hour training since she started holding sessions last spring. She said she hopes the training and other initiatives will help Greek houses ensure that there is a sober party monitor at every social event, who is visible and distinct from the rest of the partygoers, to act as intervention if needed. The party monitors will be identifiable by their shirts, which will be in a uniform color across fraternities, Donovan said.

“If I were a new student in one house and recognized one person as the party monitor, and if I then went to a different house, how would I know who [the monitor] was?” she said. “We want to get a unifying color that they’re wearing so that when [someone] goes to each house, [they] know who to go to.”

President of the IGC Will Lorenzen said he hopes every member of the Greek community will have gone through Donovan’s training by the end of the semester. He explained that the IGC and the Task Force are now starting to look toward next steps. In addition to training existing members of the Greek community, Lorenzen hopes the IGC will establish a policy for training new members to feel comfortable intervening in a potentially dangerous situation.

“This is something we’re working to improve so we don’t turn into one of those big state-school systems,” Lorenzen, a senior in the fraternity Delta Tau Delta (DTD), said. “In my opinion, we’re a very different community than those big state schools, and we want to continue to be a different community.”

Vice President of Governance in the IGC Harrison Shapiro said Donovan has also helped the IGC develop initiatives to improve the way Greek life is perceived by those outside the community.

“She’s been encouraging us when it comes to…counteracting the perceptions and realities of sexual assault on campus,” Shapiro, a senior in the fraternity Theta Chi, said.

Maya Zeigler, a former member of the sorority Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII), expressed concerns over the high emphasis placed on bystander intervention. She said she is unsure whether meaningful changes can happen within the Greek system and that sexual assault may be an implicit aspect of Greek life.

Leeway is given to Greek life on many fronts when it comes to behavioral issues and sexual misconduct,” Zeigler, a senior, said. “Why will training internally change any of that? Sexual assault will continue to happen in light of it, and survivors are treated horribly in many cases, by the university and by members of Greek life.

Jenny Duong, also a former member of AOII, expressed similar sentiments. She said she felt that party monitors may provide a certain level of protection in individual situations, but that their role does little to help end the culture of sexual assault that can be present at college parties.

“I feel like bystander intervention is so great, but also a perpetuation of the idea that [sexual assault] will happen,” Duong, a junior, said.

The efforts to reform Greek Life follow a series of high-profile incidents in Greek life, including the stabbing at the Delta Tau Delta (DTD) fraternity house last May, the alleged assault by a Somerville resident at the Zeta Psi fraternity and disciplinary action against fraternities in recent years, such as the suspension of Sigma Nu at the end of the last academic year and the probation of Delta Upsilon (DU).

According to Judicial Affairs Officer Mickey Toogood, DU is currently suspended, Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) is in the process of coming off probation and DTD is still under probation following the stabbing incident.

While Shapiro acknowledged that there are systemic issues within Greek Life, he said he aims to make Greek Life at Tufts free of problems like sexual assault, racism and classism, which sometimes appear in the national media in connection with Greek life.

“We want to make sure people feel comfortable and safe with this system that’s a part of the community,” Shapiro said. “The goal isn’t to make Greek Life separate from the Tufts community. No one should feel uncomfortable being in or near a Greek house.”

Lorenzen said that sexual assault prevention is only one of many issues the Greek community is working to address, especially since it has been expanding over the past few years.

“As we expand, we want to make sure we’re not just expanding for the sake of expansion, but because we want to grow as a community and work on the issues that are inherent in Greek life,” Lorenzen said.

Shapiro added that the IGC is also trying to improve communication between the Greek community, individual Greek houses and the greater Tufts community. People are often misinformed about which organizations are facing suspension or probation, so the IGC would like to be improve the way changes or issues facing the Greek community are announced, he said.

“If you go down to the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, they’re always able to tell you which groups are on probation, and a limited understanding of why,” Shapiro said. “So what we’re talking about is getting the information out there to the public in an accessible way so that we stop that rumor mill before it starts.”

Donovan said that while it is difficult to determine whether efforts for sexual assault prevention have made a difference in terms of the number of reported assaults, she feels that members of the Greek community are now much more open to discussing the issue.

“I’ve seen much more willingness…to [talk] to me, going over scenarios they’ve seen in their houses and determining how they can better respond to them,” she said. “It’s been a lot of work, and I think they need to be recognized for the amount of time and effort they’ve put into this.”