Panhel tightens security at Greek life events, adds trainings in sexual assault crackdown

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Dani Harton, the president of the Panhellenic Association, said the task force met every other week this summer to discuss comparative programs at peer schools that they hoped to implement at GW.

Updated: Sept. 21, 2017 at 2:19 p.m.

Sorority leaders will monitor Greek life parties more closely and increase sexual assault prevention training for chapter members this academic year.

The Panhellenic Association released a report Wednesday recommending a slew of new prevention policies, including requiring chapters to create a guest list for each social event they host, clearly identifying sober “monitors” at parties and revamping the role of chapter “house manager” to provide more support and resources to members.

Student leaders on the task force said the changes were needed to increase awareness of sexual assault issues within the Greek community and increase protection at social events after council leaders noticed a “spike” in sexual violence and drugging reports last academic year. Experts said Greek chapters – often the center of social life on campus – had a special responsibility to protect students who attend their events.

The recommendations were crafted by a task force, organized by Panhel and comprised of Greek life and other student leaders, that met over the summer after Panhel issued a “call to action” on sexual assault last spring.

After researching policies at peer universities, national chapter procedures and statistics about sexual assault in Greek life chapters, the committee produced 12 recommendations which will be rolled out beginning this fall and continuing into next academic year, Dani Harton, the president of the Panhellenic Association, said.

“The recommendations are meant to serve as the starting points for action that we would like to take when it comes to sexual assault prevention on our campus,” she said in an email.

Harton said the task force – which consists of 54 students on four subcommittees – has begun to work with council and chapter leaders to implement most of the task force’s policy changes by the end of the semester.

“We need to do something to protect our own community because we love it and need to make it better.”

The recommendations focus on adding survivor resources, peer learning seminars and increasing safety measures at Greek events, according to the committee’s report.

To increase safety, beginning this fall Greek chapters will be required to create guest lists for social events and mandate that students “check-out” when leaving an event to create a “closed party system” where chapter leaders will have a record of who attended an event and if an incident occurs.

“Sober monitors” – already required at events with alcohol – will have to wear pins or lanyards so they can be easily identified by someone under the influence of alcohol and in need of assistance.

The task force recommended that council leaders start confidential support programs for chapter members to provide peer counseling for students who have experienced sexual violence and give Greek leaders advice on reporting incidents.

At least 80 percent of all Greek life members will be required to participate in “continuous education” trainings on sexual assault prevention and this spring potential new members to all chapters won’t be allowed to participate in recruitment unless they attend one of 19 trainings focused on sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, survivor support and the meaning of consent. The trainings will be run by the Greek life and Title IX offices.

Last spring, the Interfraternity Council announced it would require all fraternities on campus to host a Title IX education session within two weeks of new member initiation.

The IFC backed the task force’s plans in a Facebook post last week.

In past years, the Greek life community has sought to generate more conversation about sexual violence prevention. In February 2015, Greek leaders said a University task force focused on Greek life culture should establish more sexual assault prevention and awareness training.

This year’s student-led task force launched last May and aimed to provide reform proposals early this fall ahead of the anticipated spike in sexual assault incidences during the “red zone,” the period at the beginning of fall semester where an influx of sexual assaults typically occur particularly among new students.

Peak Sen Chua, the president of the Student Association who sat on the task force’s resource, reporting and survivor support subcommittee, said he anticipates a successful collaboration between survivor advocates and Greek leaders to implement the group’s recommendations.

“We’re looking forward to working with them on how we can best move forward after a very productive task force and a very productive summer,” he said.

Bailey Bystry, the vice president of Students Against Sexual Assault and chair of the task force’s reporting, resources and survivor support subcommittee, said the recommendations will push Greek life leaders to engage in more peer education on sexual violence.

Bystry said the task force brought Panhel and other student advocates together, helping to bridge a disconnect that has existed between Greek life and survivor advocates in recent years.

“No one is better equipped to understand the nuances of campus culture or the nuances of Greek Life culture than the people that are living it.”

“I was seeing the potential to pair that with the Panhel perspective,” Bystry said. “This needs to happen, we need to do something to protect our own community because we love it and need to make it better.”

Bridgette Stumpf, the co-executive director of the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., said this effort has the potential to shift the culture surrounding Greek life on campus to make community events both fun and safe.

“Greek Life tends to have a lot of parties, and do those parties involve alcohol?” she said. “Knowing how we know how alcohol is often used as a weapon to perpetuate and perpetrate sexual violence, I think any community culture that creates that setting is going to have certain vulnerabilities to sexual violence.”

Stumpf said it will be important for members of the task force to “honor their own voice” because students have firsthand knowledge of the sexual assault issues they’re aiming to address.

“Preventive education is typically focussed on bystander intervention, and I think no one is better equipped to understand the nuances of campus culture or the nuances of Greek Life culture than the people that are living it,” Stumpf said.

Lindsey Silverberg, the director of advocacy and case management for the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., said bringing together survivor advocates and Greek leaders is crucial for diminishing sexual assault on campuses.

She said it’s important to engage Greek leaders in conversations about sexual assault without making them feel under attack.

“I think you have to be delicate around how you talk about it, because people are going to be automatically defensive,” Silverberg said. “There are men within those groups who don’t feel good about this and who feel like what’s happening is not OK, they just might not have the space to participate in the conversation because they don’t often feel invited.”

Liz Konneker, Meredith Roaten and Cayla Harris contributed reporting.

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