Letter: New Anti-Sexual Violence Project Asks for Formal Commitment and Improvement in Fraternities 

By Rebecca Abrams

Greek Life In Front is a project started by myself and third-year student Jake Mansoor, inspired by a discussion the two of us had last spring about sexual assault prevention. At that time, we both were formally involved in Greek Life (Alpha Omicron Pi [AOII] and Alpha Epsilon Pi [AEPi], respectively, though Mansoor has since deactivated from AEPi). As members of the Greek community, we wondered what we could do to make Greek life a space where all people felt safe. Our focus in particular was on fraternity houses, and how to make those physical spaces safe for all people. Our conversation was centered around the idea that in order to create a fun social environment, you have to first create a safe social environment.

We eventually came up with the idea of a formal policy detailing the conduct expected of all brothers in fraternities. We wanted to create a formal pathway through which fraternity brothers could publicly commit to the values they pledge to uphold. We envisioned this policy posted publicly, both in fraternity houses and online, and available to any guest at any time, allowing for a more transparent and formalized set of expectations held by both guests and brothers. This is why the project is called Greek Life In Front—because we want to be in front of the issue and because these policies will be posted in the front of fraternity houses and other Greek spaces.

Together, we drafted an example policy for AEPi specifically, outlining rules for parties and for safety, which included:

1. Sober brothers at all events, including the president and risk manager

2. Rigorous bystander training for all brothers; duty of individual brothers to intervene if they see nonconsensual activity of any kind

3. Formal and clear disciplinary measures for brothers who are found to engage in sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to sexual violence

4. Safety measures for guests: phone numbers of sober brothers and of brothers on call, and safe spaces (within the party) where people could help

Our project has expanded past this original draft. We have asked many of the fraternities on campus to sign on to this project and to create and implement unique sexual violence policies for their organizations. Although this is an independent project, we have partnered with Panhellenic Council (the governing body for all sororities on campus), Student Government, and the Phoenix Survivors Alliance, and we are working on expanding our project to include all forms of RSOs on campus which may host or take part in social events where sexual assault awareness and prevention is critical.

Early last week a letter to the editor by Psi Upsilon (Psi U) President Drew Armstrong outlined the measures his organization is taking to improve their response to sexual violence. In the letter, Armstrong referenced several of these initiatives; I’m writing this letter partially to clarify that Psi U is one of many fraternities involved in Greek Life In Front, and the steps they described in his letter, particularly numbers 3 and 4, are in part due to our project.

Other fraternities that have formally signed on and committed to this project are Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), Sigma Chi (Sig Chi), Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep), AEPi, and Zeta Psi. Fiji has given me permission to reference an excerpt of its drafted and signed individual policy, which highlights measures taken to increase internal accountability should a brother be accused of sexual assault.  For example, one clause dictates that “any individual(s) suspected or accused of sexual assault will be placed on temporary suspension while the incident is investigated. Suspension entails a revocation of all privileges including: all FIJI events & meetings, and all other privileges. In the most severe cases, should the individual(s) live in the chapter house, the chapter may request that he move out of the house for the duration of all investigations. If the individual(s) refuses the request, the chapter may also take the legal steps necessary to pursue eviction.  Another example of measures for increased internal accountability is mandated reporting of sexual assault or violence. Sig Ep’s policy has a clause stating that “if any brother of this fraternity is witness to a situation involving non-consensual conduct or the beginnings of any sort of non-consensual activity, they have the right and the obligation…to report the conduct to the President and other members of the Executive Board.” 

Each fraternity’s policy, along with contact information of their respective presidents, risk managers, and other relevant student leaders, will be available on the Greek Life In Front Website, which will be formally launched early next quarter.

I’m writing this letter for a few reasons: first, to introduce what I believe is an exciting and meaningful project; second, to clarify that the steps Psi U is taking are an example of the initiatives that we have asked it and other fraternities to take; third, to welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved in this project. While we acknowledge that this project alone cannot solve this issue on campus, and that Greek life spaces are not the only ones in which sexual violence occurs, we are hoping to raise the level of discussion and action on this topic by bringing it to the front of our Greek and non-Greek campus community. As we look to launch the website next quarter and continue to improve and increase transparency, conduct, and expectations of members of Greek life, we want to make sure that our campus is aware and involved in our efforts to make UChicago and UChicago Greek life a safer community for all its members.

To learn more about Student Government’s work related to sexual assault awareness and prevention, contact 2017 College Council Representative Louisa Richardson-Deppe at lrichardsondeppe@uchicago.edu.

Rebecca Abrams, Class of 2016. Contact her directly at rfabrams@uchicago.edu to learn more about Greek Life in Front or to get involved in the project.