Consent is So Frat

Making consent and healthy relationships part of what it means to be a fraternity brother or sorority sister.

Why I Stayed in My College Fraternity and Became an Activist

ef7ef9cb38a2e41fc6668383b3e4249f

This past week the article “Why I Quit My College Fraternity” circulated the internet. Written by Scott Elman from Wesleyan University, the article detailed why his experience in his fraternity and the issue of sexual assault on campus led him to remove himself from the Greek community at Wesleyan. I greatly admire Scott’s stand and I understand why so many men who wish to be allies in the fight against violence against women find themselves disgusted by fraternity culture. However, I would like to propose an alternative to leaving. Just like Scott, I participated in Greek Life while at Wesleyan University. Additionally, like Scott, I struggled with the seemingly contradictory nature of my desire to be an ally and my membership within my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. I was in the process of joining my fraternity when the discussion over the case at Beta Theta Pi was taking place. I nearly made the same decision as Scott, however I chose to stay in my fraternity. This does not make me better or worse than Scott and the many other men that have made similar decisions. I just decided to follow the strategy of taking on a system from on the inside.

The fraternity system presents a culture that often finds itself counter to efforts to make campuses safe. Jokes between brothers and brother interactions with the campus community that are harmful stem from a hyper-masculine expectation from inside the organization. Clearly, the change would come from within, slowly but surely; my brothers and the brothers of other fraternities had to reflect on themselves and their organization. When I came to my brothers with the concept, it was met with hesitation. How would a group of 18-22 year old men in an all-male organization react to a discussion around sexual assault, consent, and fraternity culture? The answer is, at first, with confusion yet excitement. My brothers understood why we were discussing the issue but were surprised why this was a discussion and not a lecture. Never before had they been talked with about consent and fraternities instead of being talked at. Anonymous questions such as “What’s a sexy way to ask for consent?” and “How do I call my brother out on his language?” kept the conversation light yet informative. This initial conversation did not make a fundamental change to how fraternity brothers think, yet it gave evidence that the first step towards making a difference in fraternity culture is to start discussing how their organization interacts with issues around consent and rape culture.

While steps were gradual over the next couple years, I found myself identifying more and more as a fraternity activist. I saw how the organizational structures present within a Greek organization allow for great work to be done – whether in social, philanthropic, or social justice planning. Discussions were happening within all the fraternities at Wesleyan. As a founding member of the Inter-Greek Council, I was able to keep in communication with the other organizations about this issue. Culture hadn’t changed, but now consent and safe spaces were seen as a relevant topic by Wesleyan organizations. I was able to see large changes being made within our own organization, as we formed a position, Social Justice chair, to address not only fraternity consent activism on campus but the fraternity’s support of social justice issues in general at Wesleyan. While I had been the brother to bring this issue to the fraternity at the beginning, brothers had started discussing the issue with their friends outside the fraternity and bringing it up within the fraternity setting. As a brotherhood we frequently discussed how we could make our events safer, enacting policies such as sober brother patrol to make sure events were safer and co-hosting social events with Rho Epsilon Pi, the sole sorority on campus which has also made large strides in bringing conversations around consent to the Greek community. Greek culture wouldn’t change in a few days or weeks, but it was clear that the wheels were in motion.

As Scott discusses in his article, this past spring the conversation around sexual assault and fraternities was put at the forefront of the campus community as the case against Psi Upsilon was brought. A lot of great changes were made, such as the Inter-Greek Council resolution adopting trainings for all incoming members of Greek organizations. I had the opportunity to write a resolution of Greek Life standards with the help and support of Greek students and activists alike, passing 27-1 in the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Even the discussion around the possibility of required co-education, which individuals inside and out of Greek life had mixed opinions about, pushed the Greek organizations to look inward and address what changes they had to make as individuals and as an institution. The campus atmosphere was occasionally volatile – as a member of the Greek community who was active in the circles of campus activists, I was met with backlash, once being called a “defender of rapists” by an individual whom I did not know, but had seen me speak at a Student Assembly meeting. I understood my position in the middle of the seemingly divided “sides” of this debate, but through that position I recognized the possibility for change.

President Roth and the Wesleyan trustees are currently deciding the fate of Greek life at Wesleyan, choosing between a range of options include implementing the standards resolution, forced co-education, and the banning of Greek Life altogether. While I care deeply about the fate of Greek Life at Wesleyan, it’s important to look past our one campus to fraternity culture in general. Fraternities have shown the ability to be progressive – Phi Alpha Tau at Emerson University raised money to fund their transgender brother’s surgery, the Inter-Greek Councils at USCS, University of Delaware and others have sponsored the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes March. Unfortunately we also see many examples of fraternity brothers contributing culturally and violently to campus violence against women. It is unquestionable that fraternities need to change to make their communities safer. I chose to see the chance to take an institution which provides a home for so many college men and work towards making it an organization which builds allies and bystanders. I stay in my fraternity because men’s engagement is so necessary in ending violence against women and the fraternity system is a great place to make that change. Like Scott, I identify as a man and as a feminist. I just also identify as a fraternity brother.

901526_2075440405900_2102708779_o

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on July 15, 2014 by .

Navigation

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

Consent is So Frat

Making consent and healthy relationships part of what it means to be a fraternity brother or sorority sister.

%d bloggers like this: