During Wildcat Welcome, I had a rather jarring experience in relation to Greek Culture, something I had been unfamiliar with. In a whispered, unsure voice, I was informed that SAE has also been nicknamed “Sexual Assault Expected.”
Immediately, I thought, “What kind of bullshit?” The complacency that students must exhibit to call a fraternity that on the sly had me befuddled and angry.
The anger descended as I traversed through Fall Quarter, attended parties, and witnessed active conversations by many about sexual assault. There were many wonderful programs sanctioned by the University that emphasized consent, bystander intervention, and supportive programs like SHAPE and MARS and CARE that actively supported the victim. Finally, I was witness to no active situations of sexual violence or discomfort, and thought maybe the University and Greek Culture as a community had begun to move towards real change regarding sexual assault.
Now, with the recent email sent out by NU’S Emergency Department, my anger has resurfaced. And my anger has resurfaced with a very pointed target.
We need to start holding Greek Life and the norms it upholds accountable. We need to start paying attention to the fact that fraternities are breeding grounds for sexual violence and sexual predators.
To take this further, we as a community need to start holding frat “brothers” accountable for their actions. Frat brothers need to become very aware of the privilege that they exude by being a collective of (majority) straight (majority) white men that has created such a toxic environment. And such an environment is bound to be toxic, as it always is when a group of privileged people get together and make pushes to affect social atmosphere like fraternities do. They need to become aware that every time a girl walks into their house, she is automatically subjected to an environment where many see her as prey. And that it is up to the fraternities – not the women, not non-members, but the members themselves to take a stand and say and do something.
As it is, I am tired of coddling fraternities and watching the university roll out program after program to educate these men on something that is really not hard to understand. I am tired of the weak and lackluster MARS program that is only used to make men feel better without actively doing anything about it.
As the main source of illicit fun on campus, fraternities as communities need to sit down and have real conversations about their presence on campus. They need to talk about whether they will continue to allow the abhorrent mark of sexual assault to stain their name – or whether they are finally going to start taking active steps to fix this. Fraternities exude power over multiple subsets of people on campus, and they continue to abuse it. It is time that we stop looking at fraternities as a collective of individuals, but rather a collective in and of itself with a culture in and of itself that is flexible like all communities. It does not have to be like this. If we want a safe, diverse, and inclusive community then we must make it that way by holding the organizations that make our community the opposite of those things accountable.
To members: If your brother is accused of sexually assaulting someone, you, as a member, should feel ashamed. This is me actively shaming fraternities and the culture that they take no responsibility for, despite being the cause. Greek members might feel compelled to distance themselves from this by claiming that individual actions do not define the fraternity, but is it not the entire point of a fraternity to take in individuals whose actions and morals are representative of the fraternity as a whole? By welcoming these members into the community, SAE has informed the world that this is an inherent part of the organization. If the university wants us to believe that they care about victims, they will shut Northwestern’s SAE chapter down. A fraternity that is nationally recognized for being vile has no place here.
And finally, we as a community need to stop pretending fraternities are the only way to have fun on a Friday night. Show fraternities that we will not brush sexual assault accusations under the rug, and that we will not cosign them until they show the community that they are more than just talk.
I want to see fraternities putting on programs that center on sexual assault. I want to see fraternities shaming the men who have done these things, and refusing to let the “brotherhood” hold more power over them than their supposed desire to be good people.
And to the victims: I see you. I support you. I stand with you. And I believe you.