Sororities announce new policy
By John Biberman
Published on Thursday, May 12, 2011
The eight presidents of Dartmouth’s Panhellenic sororities unanimously decided that their houses will boycott all social events held in conjunction with a fraternity in which a member has assaulted a female student if internal adjudication is not taken against the individual in a timely manner, Sigma Delta sorority president Danielle Levin ’12 said in an interview with The Dartmouth. The boycott, which will continue until the fraternity in question internally tries the perpetrator of the assault, was enacted following a violent incident at a fraternity’s physical plant on Saturday, according to Levin.
In a pre-scheduled Tuesday meeting between College President Jim Yong Kim and Greek organization presidents, sorority presidents encouraged fraternities to include clearly-established internal adjudication bylaws regarding violence against women in their organizations’ constitutions, according to Levin. The suggestion was met by a lack of enthusiasm from both administrators and fraternity presidents, Levin said.
Following the meeting, the sorority presidents decided to enact the boycotting policy, which was formalized in a document and sent to the Inter-Fraternity Council, Levin said. The sorority presidents’ Wednesday decision was influenced by the public act of violence that occurred at the fraternity in question on Saturday, Levin said. The fraternity had not informed the sorority presidents of any actions taken against the male student since the incident, according to Levin.
The violent argument occurred between a female member of the Class of 2013 and a male member of the Class of 2011 in the fraternity’s basement on Saturday night, Levin said. The female student threw a drink in the face of the male student — who was a member of the fraternity in question — and he threw a glass bottle at her in response. He then pushed her against the wall until other members of the fraternity pulled him away, according to Levin.
Levin said she did not know if the female student, who was also a member of a Greek organization, had been injured. The new initiative will apply to acts of violence against all female students regardless of their membership status in a Greek organization, Levin said.
Sororities have canceled all social events scheduled with the perpetrator’s fraternity, according to Levin. A letter was sent to the fraternity’s president alerting him of the new policy on Wednesday evening, Levin said.
IFC President Kevin Niparko ’12 said he disagreed with the assertion that fraternity presidents had not been receptive to changing their bylaws, citing active efforts by the IFC to promote dialogue on sexual assault.
Niparko is a member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.
Fraternity presidents did not immediately support the sorority presidents’ suggestions during their meeting with Kim due to concerns as to whether a top-down implementation of bylaw changes could adequately address sexual assault, according to Niparko. He added that IFC members believe a grassroots effort to change campus perception of assault may be more effective.
Niparko said the house in question had been dealing with the offending member through the appropriate channels, and that the sorority presidents had not given the fraternity enough time to pursue action. He criticized the way in which the decision was made, calling it “a secret vote,” and said that he was disappointed fraternity presidents had not been included in the discussion of the new policy.
“When sorority presidents are unwilling to start a dialogue and converse with us, that contributes to the problem,” Niparko said. “We want to work with sororities to improve how sexual assault on this campus is handled.”
Several Dartmouth fraternity presidents declined to comment for this article.
Levin said the policy has long been considered, and that the policy was last suggested following an incident at Theta Delta Chi fraternity during Summer 2007. The Saturday incident presented an opportunity to enact the initiative, partially due to changing attitudes concerning sexual assault on campus, according to Levin.
“The decision was more than unanimous,” Levin said. “It was excitement. People walked out of there bouncing, myself included.”
Delta Delta Delta sorority president Janie Abernethy ’12 also applauded the change, calling it an “obvious move.”
“This has been a policy that sorority presidents should have been enacting for years,” Abernethy said.
Levin and Abernethy serve as co-chairs of the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault.
Levin said she knew of only two houses, Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, that currently include adjudication procedures concerning assault written into their constitutions.
Theta Delt bylaws include a "sexual assault action plan," Theta Delt president Will Mueller '12 said in an email to The Dartmouth. Alpha Delta fraternity bylaws also include formal internal adjudication procedures regarding physical and sexual assault, AD president Jason Zins '12 said in an email to The Dartmouth.
Levin also emphasized that any decision to boycott a house would have to be unanimous among sorority presidents and would have to be the result of a proven case of assault.
“The biggest argument against those who stonewall our cause is that the innocent shouldn’t be hurt,” Levin said. “We want to make this clear that we will not take this lightly.”
Levin said she regretted having to boycott the house involved, given Sigma Delta’s historically close relationship with the fraternity. Levin said she believed the house would take action because the members of the house in question were “even more angry about it” than the sorority presidents.
“We know that one brother’s actions aren’t indicative of the entire membership, but it’s still up to us to hold each other accountable,” Levin said. “We encourage them to use the power in their hands to fix it.”
While the Panhellenic Council and administrators — including acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears — have been notified of the new policy, Levin said the decision to enact the policy was solely the product of the sorority presidents and their organization’s executive boards.
Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority President Claire Hunter said in an email to The Dartmouth that she represented the positions of the other Panhellenic presidents in her support for the changes.
“As presidents, we hope that this policy sends the clear message that it is not acceptable for organizations to delay their response to incidences of assault (of any kind),” she said.
Levin and Abernethy said the policy would not extend to encouraging individual members not to visit the house in question.
“Some of the failures in the past have been when [a sorority] has told individual members not to go to a house,” Levin said. “My purview only extends to what we do as an organization.”
The original article stated that the incident at Theta Delta Chi fraternity occurred in 2009 when in fact it occurred in 2007.
The article has been update to reflect emails received by The Dartmouth from Theta Delt president Will Mueller '12 and AD president Jason Zins '12 which stated that Theta Delt and AD bylaws include assault adjudication procedures.