As a member of Greek Life at Case Western Reserve University, I do believe our community is unique and wonderful. We are made up of individuals who uphold the academic honor which characterizes our university as a whole, who care deeply for the causes which we represent. However we are not so different from the national picture of Greek Life, despite what many would like to believe.
In fall 2014, there were 10 reported accounts of sexual assault involving Greek Life members on campus. Ten—in one semester. For a community supposedly held to “unrealistically” high standards, this is downright embarrassing.
What could the Greek Life Office (GLO) do but try to address the root of the problem? Of course, not every single member of Sigma Phi Epsilon (one of the chapters implicated in one of the 10 cases) is guilty by affiliation. But when a second accusation of sexual assault involving a member of SigEp surfaced in fall 2015, the situation began to look more dire.
After that, SigEp survived a scathing membership review. More sanctions followed for alcohol-related incidents.
Some universities, including Yale University, have revoked charters of fraternities for just one violation of sexual misconduct policy. The university could have taken much more extreme measures, such as suspending SigEp on the grounds of multiple pending sexual assault cases (in addition to multiple alcohol-related violations) involving a single chapter—but they didn’t.
Instead, they were transparent about their decision-making process. The GLO allowed brothers multiple opportunities to improve during the period of the sanctions. However in a Feb. 2016 an Observer article entitled “Fraternity brothers upset by Greek Life sanctions,” one member of the Interfraternity Congress (IFC) reported that “from his experience, members displayed varying degrees of resistance to sanctions.”
In fact, SigEp had to undergo university-led hearings due to issues with noncompliance. As the article states, “Though it was not these hearings that triggered the membership reviews, a university hearing for an alcohol related incident requires that the chapters either have a long history of judicial action or that they have demonstrated an unwillingness to cooperate with past sanctions, which is what usually leads to a membership review.”
Turning in the action plan late might have been the tipping point, but it was the final mistake in a long series of actions demonstrating apathy for the situation at hand.
As unfortunate as it is that members of SigEp had to evacuate their building so quickly and that the fraternity can no longer exist, it cannot easily come as a surprise.
To say that consistent sanctions on Greek chapters are “unfair” ignores the fact that Greek Life does have some standard to uphold in the first place. It’s the responsibility of each individual chapter to comply with the rules and regulations set out by Nationals, the Interfraternity Congress (IFC), the university and the chapter itself. Therefore, the university and the GLO are not complicit in the breaking of those rules and regulations by an individual chapter. In other words, it’s the chapter’s responsibility to own their mistakes and do whatever they can to fix them. Furthermore, resources, such as the advice of IFC officials, were offered to SigEp, which did not fully take advantage of them.
The rules are stringent for a reason. So far, all other chapters on campus have continued to comply (to differing degrees, albeit) with the mandates set forth by the GLO. Rather than causing us to crumble, revoking SigEp’s charter has the capacity to strengthen our Greek Life community in that all who participate will now embody the image we wish to portray.
Greek life isn’t mandatory; it’s a system you may opt into in order to better yourself. By resisting measures taken by the GLO and university aimed at bettering the organization members holds dear, certain brothers of SigEp showed that they simply did not live up to their own self-imposed expectations.
– Maia Delegal