From the Panhellenic Presidents
By Ellie Sandmeyer, Guest Columnist
Published on Monday, May 16, 2011
Our last three years at Dartmouth have been characterized by an admirable upswing in the amount of campus concern regarding assault and its relationship with our Greek system. All too often, however, the progress stops with dialogue. The policy that the Panhellenic presidents released last week represents an attempt to bring these dialogues to life.
From now on, if we become aware of an alleged assault or threat committed by an affiliated student, we will notify his or her organization, after which the organization has 24 hours to initiate an investigative response. If the organization fails to do so, all eight Panhellenic sororities will cancel any joint events with that organization until it has taken action and finalized a response. In addition, if an organization becomes aware of an alleged assault or threat and does not communicate with us, we will consider their silence a violation of the transparency needed for Greek officers to ensure the safety of their members. In this event, we will suspend joint programming with that organization until internal procedures are finalized.
It is not our intention for the policy to replace or interfere with the College’s Judicial Affairs proceedings, but rather to act as a complement. We believe that internal adjudication systems allow organizations’ members to hold one another accountable and demonstrate a commitment to confronting assault in a way that College proceedings cannot.
In order to design a policy that is as enduring and useful as possible, we are in contact with various College administrators, deans, coaches, Judicial Affairs officers, Inter-Fraternity Council members, professors, civil rights lawyers and experts in gender equality and Title IX. We recognize the community’s desire to understand the specifics of the policy as soon as possible, but we are also taking its quality seriously. We plan to release the official policy about Greek accountability later this week.
As one of the six pillars of Greek life, accountability should be a driving force behind the behaviors and decisions of Greek members. Thus, we have asked all Greek organizations to update their bylaws to specifically address assault in their internal adjudication proceedings. Moreover, we are asking for the swift use of internal investigative and disciplinary procedures as well as open communication with other Greek organizations about those processes. This policy is not intended to punish a house. Rather, it is intended to provide an incentive for our brothers and sisters to hold each other accountable for our behavior. When we fail to firmly address an assault against any student perpetrated by an individual within our houses, it sends the message that we condone that behavior and are complicit in creating a pervasive atmosphere of violence.
As Panhellenic sorority leaders who together represent two-thirds of Dartmouth’s upperclass female population, it is our responsibility to protect our members from such an atmosphere. We cannot in good faith sponsor events with a house that has yet to take measures to address an alleged assault. Sponsoring such an event would put our members at risk and would be a tacit declaration of approval of that organization’s behavior. We have chosen to act as a cou ncil because feel we have a common perspective: No one can deny the reported gender imbalance of assault victims, who are overwhelmingly female, or the fact that Dartmouth social dynamics often put sorority members in fraternity spaces. However, any act of violence is a threat to our community and we will respond to assaults committed by our female members as well assaults against males. To this end, we have encouraged members of the IFC to create their own, parallel policy on assault response.
We recognize that many instances of assault happen with varying degrees of certainty and with few witnesses. However, it is the duty of every organization’s leadership to seriously investigate any alleged incident of which they become aware, and to introduce measures to assure the safety of their space. Thus, our policy is designed to combat the potential for assault-specific bylaws to become empty promises. We will require that house leaders implement their clauses, and we will not be satisfied by those who merely cite their presence in the bylaws.
We hope that there will be a day when this policy is unnecessary, and we take no joy in enacting it now. We also regret the delay in implementing a policy that has been such a long time coming. It is with a deep sense of pride and purpose that we introduce this long overdue act of solidarity.
Ellie Sandmeyer ’12 is a guest columnist and Panhellenic Council president. Janie Abernethy ’12, Neera Chatterjee ’12, Ann Corrin ’12, Rachel Eggleston ’12, Elizabeth Fairchild ’12, Claire Hunter ’12, Danielle Levin ’12 and Katie Niedt ’12. are presidents of the eight Panhellenic sororities.