After rumors took anonymous social media app Yik Yak by storm, university officials have confirmed that the Greek Life Office has requested all fraternities to cancel any social events involving alcohol for the rest of the semester. This request is following allegations of sexual misconduct committed by a number of fraternity brothers.
According to statistics provided by Associate Vice President for Student Affairs for Campus Life Susan Nickel-Schindewolf, ten Case Western Reserve University fraternity men have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past semester.
In response to this information, Mark Starr, director of Greek Life and Amie Jackson, associate director of Greek Life, advised all fraternities to not host events or parties where alcohol would be served.
“We wanted to address [the problem] and be proactive,” Starr said. “We know that this upcoming weekend is when these things [parties] happen.”
Starr called this request “a big step,” saying it is something the Greek Life Office has not done before.
President of the Interfraternity Congress Executive Board Michael Pawelkowski says Starr and Jackson brought the concerns to him over the weekend and that he then called a Dec. 1 meeting to discuss the request with the fraternity presidents. Pawelkowski emphasized that the request was not a “ban” as rumors had said.
“It was an open conversation,” said Pawelkowski. “Chapters could or couldn’t abide by it. It wasn’t a mandate.”
Sgt. Jeffrey Daberko of the CWRU Police Department said that he has noticed that the number of sexual assault reports has been higher this semester than in previous fall semesters.
As of press time, no notification of the sexual misconduct had been sent to the campus community by any campus office. According to Daberko, CWRU PD only sends out security alerts if the situation is perceived to be an ongoing threat. The number of sexual assaults reported to CWRU PD in a given year are published every year in an annual report. The 2014 Annual Security Report denotes that 16 sexual assaults were reported in 2013.
Starr attributed this lack of information sharing to the nature of pending investigations.
“When things are ongoing, it’s very messy,” Starr said.
He added that fraternity presidents were notified since the concerns “were things directly involving the Greek community so they were things we [the Greek Life Office and IFC] planned to address.”
Awareness concerning sexual assault and sexual misconduct has been on the rise across the country, with a topic that was once off-limits becoming increasingly common in discussions. According to Daberko, an increased emphasis from university president Barbara Snyder and the media on reporting sexual assault may have contributed to the increase in number of reports.
Nickel-Schindewolf also says the rise may be partly due to a new 2013 policy by the federal government. Campuses were instructed to update their sexual assault policies and create a new policy that included not only sexual assault, but also sexual misconduct.
Nickel-Schindewolf says that it is typical for the number of reports to rise when a new policy comes into effect.
“As we review the semester’s sexual misconduct – and we have looked at it with a critical eye – ten Greek men were involved with sexual misconduct,” she said, adding that many of the incidents involved alcohol. “We don’t want to make assumptions, but we do have these concerns brought forward throughout the semester.”
Pawelkowski stressed that the primary concern should be centered in providing an environment where these situations can be acknowledge and discussed, and trying to see what can be done as a campus community.
“For the time being, the point is to not have any more issues for the rest of the semester,” he said. “Let the current cases be, and have respect for the people that are in those cases.”
“There’s all this chatter about it, and there’s all this media around it,” he added. “But in the end it’s not about the university, it’s not about Greek life or non-Greeks. It’s about the people who are going through these cases and who are really affected by what’s occurring. I think that that’s the way that people need to start thinking about it – less of we need to do this, this and this but more of we need to become advocates for these individuals.”
A representative speaking on behalf of university administration released the following statement: “Case Western Reserve takes the issue of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, and has expanded its outreach and education efforts significantly over the past year and half,” the statement reads. “In addition, this issue has drawn substantial national attention over the past several months.”
“We do not know whether the increase in reports this fall represents increased awareness of the importance of reporting or an actual uptick in incidents. What we do know is that the safety of our students is our top priority, and we constantly look for constructive ways to ensure their well-being. Our request to fraternity leaders represents just such an effort. We also encourage all of our students – Greek or not – to exercise care and caution during this final week of classes and throughout reading days and final exams.”
-additional reporting by Julia Bianco, News Editor, and Mike McKenna, Director of Print