Chicago Maroon (Maggie Loughran): Just a couple basic things: This is on the record, we are recording it. The basic premise of this meeting is to find out how FCS [Fraternities Committed to Safety] is going, ask a little more about it, and find out how it’s changing, if at all, for the future, and hopefully weigh in on an editorial—positively, negatively. Basically we just want to learn more about it because usually editorials where we don’t know what we’re talking about get us in trouble.
CM (Pete Grieve): I thought it would make sense if someone could give us a run-down of what FCS is, how it came about, what you guys do, how it works, all that stuff. Some of us are pretty familiar with it, but others may not be.
Drew Armstrong (Psi Upsilon): As one of the four people in the room who wrote the document, started it, essentially the FCS agreement is a group of fraternities coming together to try to create a baseline of standards for safety procedures and risk management procedures, and to kind of create a forum and outlet for transparency so that we can best make our campus safer and do our part in doing so.
CM (Pete): And can you explain the signing and how that works and the mechanism for enforcement with the vote for re-signing [FCS] and all that stuff?
Adam Siegel (Alpha Epsilon Pi): You asked about the mechanism for re-signing and making sure the group is what it is, so essentially every quarter we meet—we’re meeting three times per quarter essentially (once per month)—and at the beginning of every quarter we’ll take a vote—we did this the other day actually—so every fraternity will be up and it’s a majority vote of the signing members to decide whether you will be a part of FCS so to speak.
Psi Upsilon (Psi U): In addition to having all of our info online so people can reach out, there is a reporting mechanism on the website to allow for reports of violations of only the document. It’s specifically designed not to deal with issues of sexual misconduct or sexual assault because we’re not qualified to deal with that. And on the website we make an effort to direct such a claim to go to the proper channels, the University. So this is solely for violations of the document and any line items mentioned in it.
CM (Jamie Ehrlich): How do each of your fraternities report chapter suspensions of members and if you do, who do you report them to?
Stephen Moreland (Delta Upsilon): Can you explain that question?
CM (Jamie): Yeah, so if a member of the fraternity is suspended for any particular reason, whether it be sexual misconduct or academic dishonesty, is that suspension at all recorded or reported to anyone?
Delta Upsilon (DU): Like a press release or like the headquarters?
CM (Jamie): To FCS or the national fraternity as well.
Psi U: We would report that to nationals.
Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi): For us it depends on the cause of the suspension, but the only people we feel the need to report everything to—any sort of suspension—is our national organization.
DU: Yeah the suspension would be reported to the national organization.
Rahil Khemani (Sigma Phi Epsilon): Same with us
Clyde Anderson (Phi Gamma Delta): Everything we do is reported to nationals
Kevin Walsh (Delta Kappa Epsilon): [Delta Kappa Epsilon] as well.
Michael Meng (Lambda Phi Epsilon): For [Lambda Phi Epsilon] we report to nationals but also to the Multicultural Greek Council.
Thomas DeSouza (Sigma Chi): For Sigma Chi we report to our nationals.
Josh Warren (Zeta Psi): For Zeta Psi we also report to our nationals
Kyle Pratt (Alpha Delta Phi): Ours is a required reporting to nationals. [trails off]
Psi U: To be clear, I think that refers to the bylaws of how our organizations work and not saying that, if, say, there was a member suspended for something and we felt it made sense to make that information known to other parties or make it public in some way that’s not to say we wouldn’t. That’s just kind of how a fraternity works: you report everything to nationals.
CM (Grace Hauck): When you say that it would qualify to the point where you would make it known to other members of the council, what would that qualify as, or at what point would you notify other members?
Psi U: I think it goes on a case-by-case basis, as does anything. Some instances might warrant making a full-blown public statement, some cases might not depending on what someone’s being suspended for—
CM (Grace): So let’s say it were a case of sexual assault. Would you make it known to other members or still case-by-case?
Psi U: I mean I think in the past it has been, yeah, there’s been good transparency throughout. But I mean I can’t really speak to that, yeah... yeah.
CM (Grace): Is that the case for all of you guys?
AEPi: We haven’t been in the situation so I imagine if it were to come up—let’s assume a case of sexual misconduct is the cause of suspension, I believe that would be worth bringing to the rest of the fraternities assuming it has something to do with the language of the document and the standards to which we hold ourselves. That’s I guess the best I can give you.
Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep): And that would influence our voting and any information which would be relevant to helping us decide if a party can sign the document we probably have to report.
Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI): Yeah, anything that interferes with FCS or in any way affects it. What I will say too is we’ve been pretty transparent in just talking internally that our priorities always stay with the victim so our first priority is to make sure they’re okay and go about it in a way that makes sure they’re protected if anything comes up.
Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE): I’d probably first consult my national chapter consultant. I believe if I had any issues in my chapter that’s probably the first person I would go to.
Lambda Phi Epsilon (Lambda): We would consult our nationals and our council.
Sigma Chi (Sig Chi): We would take it on a case-by-case basis and report it to our nationals and if it’s a violation of FCS we would report it like that.
Zeta Psi (Zeta): It’d be the same for us. We’d first bring it up in our chapter meeting, where we call all of the members together, and thereafter report it to nationals and take it from there depending on the scenario.
Alpha Delta Phi (Alpha Delt): We’d handle it pretty much in the same way. We’d begin with an internal discussion. Immediate expulsion if we can verify any information and if it’s contested, it’s a suspension followed by further investigation. That’s our own individual policy. But yeah we’d be pretty eager to share any information regarding any incident that is not completely internal—a violation of internal rules like failing to show up to x amount of sessions to clean the house but if it’s something that affects the outside community then of course it gets shared pretty immediately with the FCS.
CM (Pete): And when you say something that "affects" the FCS—and a few others of you have said "violates" the FCS—does any sexual assault that leads to a suspension violate FCS or for violation of FCS would that have to mean mishandling by a chapter or something along those lines?
Psi U: So again, Pete, the Fraternities Committed to Safety agreement doesn’t try to be a judicial arm to rule on such instances because it really isn’t our place. And I mean that’s why I think the purpose of this document is to promote education, prevention, and transparency. And so yeah that’s the purpose of it. In no way is it meant to make any sort of judicial judgments on an instance like that.
Sig Ep: We’d also have to consider the specific articles listed in this and see how well they were followed, et cetera.
CM (Jamie): So can one of you speak about how signing onto FCS has changed your sexual misconduct policy and what your policy was before and how it’s changed.
Sig Ep: For one, Sig Ep used to require two sober monitors, and we’ve now increased that to three as per the FCS document. And for providing water, we used to just have people come up and ask and we would provide them tap water but now we’re providing sealed water coolers that are labeled. We might start doing water bottles instead but the document says cooler right now.
Psi U: I think another obvious change is that we now meet once a month as fraternities to discuss risk management policies and see what the best practices are so we can all implement them. I think that’s an important thing and then now as an education portion of the document we are all going to be coming together to host a public sexual assault prevention seminar at some point, probably early spring quarter. So that had not existed before and does now as a result of the agreement of the document.
CM (Maggie): You mentioned that a fraternity can be suspended from re-signing the agreement but if the document is not legally binding, what internal accountability measures will be in place to ensure that a fraternity has adhered to the guidelines—so how do we know that you guys are kicking out frats or not necessarily kicking out, but suspending frats who have violated the policy.
Psi U: I think an important part is two-fold: 1) the reporting mechanism allows for people to say when there’s been a violation and 2) all of our information is public so anyone who knows there’s been a violation can approach any of us and we have all agreed to uphold these standards and know the importance of upholding these questions.
AEPi: Right and I think more to your question—If we were to hypothetically vote back in a fraternity that has violated this document in some egregious fashion, that undermines the legitimacy of what we’re trying to accomplish. And this is not something we were asked to do, this is not something we were forced to do, this is something we all came together to do for the campus as a whole, and to undermine the legitimacy of that would be nonsensical, right?
CM (Annie Cantara): Were all chapters invited to resign this quarter and, if that vote hasn’t happened yet, what’s the timeline?
Psi U: Yeah, we had a meeting on Sunday. Every chapter was voted to be able to re-sign and every chapter chose to do so.
CM (Pete): And were all the votes unanimous?
Psi U: Yes, they were.
CM (Pete): Were there any reports that came to FCS last quarter against a brother in a chapter or against a chapter itself and were any chapters at any point responsible for violating the policy on a single occasion perhaps not leading to a vote actually saying they couldn’t resign. But were there any incidents this quarter that came up?
AEPi: So what I will say is that the people running the website are AEPi’s and we haven’t received anything to the website—any kind of line item report of a violation of the document for any fraternity.
Psi U: I received no personal emails as well. Have any of you guys?
[All respond negatively]
CM (Grace): Do you mean the only people running the website on your end are AEPi’s, or only AEPi’s are running the website?
DU: He runs the website. Because he volunteered.
CM (Maggie): But you do get reports of violations?
AEPi: Well we checked that it worked, but we haven’t gotten any reports of violations.
CM (Maggie): Okay, against individual brothers or chapters.
CM (Grace): And like you said before, those violations wouldn’t involve anything related to sexual assault, right? Because someone would report that elsewhere?
AEPi: No, so the mechanism on the website, if you look at it, really only affords you the opportunity to click on certain—it runs through every article and every section of the document and says is this the part that was violated? So it comes with the acknowledgement that we don’t want reports of sexual assault to this website; that’s not what we’re looking for. We don’t feel we should be the ones adjudicating over these issues. I think us being responsible for that information is suboptimal, and we suggest what we believe to be the proper channels for people who do want to report those things. But this is so people can report violations of this document and nothing else.
Psi U: And, again, this is an agreement entered into by fraternities so there would be no place on the website either for someone to report say like a violation against an individual brother because that’s just not the structure of this. It’s an agreement entered into by fraternities so there would be no place to say report a violation of an individual brother.
CM (Maggie): Do you get the sense that people, both in and outside of Greek life, know the website exists and that they can report things?
Psi U: Well there was the Maroon article written about it. We’ve been doing our best to disseminate information by working with sororities and letting them know, keeping them up to date with the progress of this document. Additionally, we met with Phoenix Survivors’ Alliance, I believe on two occasions, to discuss this document as well.
CM (Grace): So if you weren’t in a sorority or a fraternity and you hadn’t seen the Maroon article, you might not know this exists.
AEPi: I mean, so—
DU: That can be the case with anything.
AEPi: That’s true and I guess for public events that are hosted by most of these fraternities, more often than not before they’re held, someone will post a link to this website, this document, and make sure the people who will be attending these events or whatever—we’re throwing a party on Friday, you should all come—
Psi U: Nice plug.
AEPi: Thanks, I do what I can… So it’ll link to that on the event page so anyone who’s coming to the event ostensibly knows this exists and these are the standards that we’re holding ourselves to.
CM (Maggie): Have you guys talked to SG at all or worked with them to disseminate the message?
AEPi: I mean, three of my brothers are on College Council, so they’ve sort of spread it around I think.
Lambda: I think though along that point is that if you can find information about our event and any of the events, then you can definitely find information about our agreement and how to follow up should there be an issue. Because where the event is posted is where all of this information is posted. As president of Multicultural Greek Council I know that many of our communities are certainly aware not necessarily of the specific mechanisms of how to report but that there is an agreement and there is something new happening in our Greek community that is good, that is constructive and something that, should something happen, there is an ability for us to find out what to do.
CM (Pete): And the website isn’t the only reporting mechanism, right? You just asked if anyone had gotten any emails so that would be another way to do it, right?
Psi U: Yeah, part of the website is all of our contact information made public. Every fraternity president’s name and email is on the website.
CM (Maggie): Do you have one contact person, or not?
AEPi: For the whole group?
CM (Maggie): Yeah because I know I just emailed everyone on that list to set this up because no one person was named.
Psi U: Yeah so kinda the purpose of this is that we all are a group of different fraternities coming together so the idea was to have all of our contact info so you could contact any individual one of us if you wanted to, and if you wanted to contact one of us to kind of bring your comment or whatever it may be to the rest of us then that’s also an option.
CM (Pete): But there isn’t a Fraternities Committed to Safety president?
Psi U: There’s not.
CM (Annie): Will it be announced to the public when a frat has found to be noncompliant with the FCS guidelines and not invited to re-sign?
AEPi: Should that happen, what we discussed is yes. Addressing the fact that a fraternity is no longer complying with our standards and making the campus aware of the fact that this fraternity is not meeting this baseline set of standards. We sort of establish legitimacy for the fraternities that are a part of the document and sort of take away some from anyone who fails to meet the standards in some way. So that’s part of the efficacy of the document.
Psi U: And that would be posted on the website and public policy.
Alpha Delt: So the real enforcement mechanism of the document is to be able—it provides information hopefully, you know, verifiable and useful information, to potential attendees of our events that they can expect this set of standards to be met. And so it achieves its success by singling—puts them on a different pedestal.
CM (Maggie): Would you say the incentive to re-sign the document is that it would look bad for your fraternity’s image if you don’t or aren’t able to?
Psi U: Mean I think, you know, there’s the obvious incentive that we do want to make our school safer. We want to positively contribute to campus. We do care about doing what we can to positively contribute to campus atmosphere. There’s that obvious incentive that it’s something we all care about—hence our coming together and working on this document.
CM (Maggie): So like, I can see it happening for whatever reason that five years from now, the number starts dwindling from 10 to eight to six, whatever—not because people aren’t getting re-invited to sign but just because the document isn’t really alive. What’s the incentive to re-sign?
CM (MJ Chen): How does it not become another procedural thing?
CM (Maggie): Right, there was the document “Greek Life in Front” last year, so what differentiates this from that? And will this become another “Greek Life in Front”? Which, based on how I feel, kinda fizzled out.
Lambda: So for the first time, all of the presidents and all of the fraternities have come together. From a year ago, that’s a massive change. We didn’t used to communicate all the time. We now meet every month—way more frequently in the spring when we were writing this. When you have every fraternity united, if you have a fraternity that doesn’t sign this document, it’s not just going to look really bad, but it is really bad. We don’t believe it’s going to be 10 to one, as you had mentioned. If it were to happen, it’d be gradual. I think as soon as one organization gets singled out, it’s going to be very devastating to that one organization—it’s reputation, it’s members, how people perceive them, how they can function because I’m sure Nationals would find out as well. That would be really bad not just reputationally, but also National repercussions. That is more than enough incentive for us to enforce that so that we can bring our numbers back up again if that were to happen.
CM (MJ): What’s to stop an individual house from saying “we already have these internal policies so we don’t have to adhere to these communal standards because we feel that our own guidelines are rigorous enough.”
Lambda: Well, we’ve signed this for a reason.
Alpha Delt: You lose lines of communication with the other organizations. So if there’s an individual in another Greek house, fraternity house—say it’s at bar night or whatever—it’s really, really valuable to have those lines of communication open with the other fraternities to be able to discuss that. Even if I have a lot of faith in my own policies, and the ability of my membership to act on those policies, I still see a lot of value in keeping that sense of community and those lines of communication open.
Sig Ep: And if our individual policies are more rigorous, then there’s no reason to not sign this document.
Alpha Delt: Exactly.
Sig Ep: It doesn’t hurt us in any way.
CM (Sarah Zimmerman): I have a question about party monitors. Specifically, there is a minimum of three brothers to act as party monitors, and it says that they are prepared to respond in an event of emergency. If somebody were to approach a fraternity before an event began saying that a member of the UChicago community made them feel unsafe, would a party monitor have to respond? Or do they only have to respond if they see an event or action taking place?
Psi U: So you said before an event? Like, prior to?
CM (Sarah): Yes. Like “I am worried that someone who has harassed me will show up to this party and something could happen.”
Psi U: That could obviously be completely responded to. A party monitor would inform the rest of the fraternity, and that would enable the fraternity to respond and act accordingly.
CM (Sarah): How would they act accordingly?
AEPi: I mean, this is a difficult question because there’s a lot of ambiguity with specificity in the wrong places. In this case, if this were to happen to me, if someone were to say to one of our party monitors that “I think this person is going to come to this party and do something that they shouldn’t do,” then I would hope that those party monitors would come to me and say “hey, there’s this problem.” Then I would tell the people working the front door at our event not to let that person in. Because if there’s a suspicion of something going wrong, if something could go wrong, you don’t want to take that chance. In that case, that’s hopefully how this would go.
Alpha Delt: Also, I think that if somebody felt so strongly for their safety that made them uncomfortable leaving their place of residence, then maybe they have bigger problems than contacting someone at a party. I would recommend to that person—if they really feel like their safety is being threatened by leaving their home—then they should probably speak with the university or the police. That’s a pretty serious threat—and one that I don’t feel equipped to handle. If the incident could be bad enough, I would probably want to notify the UCPD myself that there was the potential for that kind of incident.
CM (Jamie): If you don’t feel comfortable handling the threat of sexual violence, how are you equipped to handle when actual violence takes place?
DU: What? We’re saying that we’re not equipped to be, like, people who are judging on cases and evaluating cases. We not reporters. We don’t—this isn’t our job. We’re fraternity presidents. We’re trying to keep the fraternities safe. That’s the extent to what we’re going to do. We’re not going to pretend like we’re the police or we’re Jeremy Inabinet. We’re not going to pretend to be ORCSA. That’s absurd. ‘Cause we’re not.
CM (Pete): Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are other schools that have full interfraternity councils where they are doing the judicial side of things—where they are hearing cases—
DU: I wouldn’t be comfortable hearing a case. I don’t think somebody would feel comfortable having their peers be the only ones responsible for a decision in a sexual assault case.
Psi U: Do other schools’ interfraternity councils govern and adjudicate reports and cases of sexual assault and sexual misconduct?
CM (Pete): Yes, I believe there are schools where an interfraternity council would have the power to—in conjunction with the university, too—to suspend a chapter.
Lambda: Could you name a few?
Psi U: So essentially the interfraternity council itself makes that judgement? Or the university makes that judgement and the IFC acts accordingly?
CM (Pete): I’m not an expert on other schools, but I would think that if there were a number of cases that the University found responsible and the interfraternity council knew about that, it might be able to act on that. I do believe that there are interfraternity councils at other schools that have the power to kick a chapter off the council.
Lambda: Well, Pete…
Psi U: Back to the original question, which I apologize I didn’t understand at first—if someone were to come to any of us, I think we’d all be able to… Well the design of the document is that if someone were to come to a fraternity and say “I’m worried this person might come to your event because I’ve had past incidences with them that have made me feel very unsafe, we would, of course—well it depends on the exact details of the situation—but we would, of course, we would do everything to make sure that all of our guests feel as safe as possible. I think that is something we prioritize without doubt.
CM (Sarah): So there seems to be some discomfort, as you said “handling sexual assault cases,” so why do you want such independence? Or, if it’s not you, why does the administration want independence from you? Why have this separation between the administration and the interfraternity council if you’re so uncomfortable dealing with sexual assault?
Psi U: Yes, we do feel uncomfortable, but, at least, I can speak to myself when I was engaged with the discussion of the writing of the document: At that time, it was not a discomfort of, you know, trying to do everything we can to come to a right and just conclusion. That fact of the matter is, there are people whose whole lives are kinda dedicated to these exact sorts of instances. The University hires them to work on these sorts of instances. I just don’t see the role of a kid in college to try to like be the judge and jury when it comes to this stuff. That’s the real goal: to point to the channels that are designed to deal with these instances, so that way they can be best dealt with.
CM (Sarah): Then why not have oversight from the University? Or regulations from the University?
DU: That’s a question for the University.
Lambda: Well, FCS is not a burden from the university. It’s something that is an added layer. If something were to happen, then that individual certainly should contact the university. We are just an additional help--an additional person that you can talk to. We’re an additional mechanism because we set out rules and guidelines for what our fraternities must look like during our events so that we can prevent a situation from happening. But we are not in some way hindering a university response. We are just a safeguard before it gets there. Before something happens, as opposed to after.
DU: Yeah, nothing in the document says that FCS won’t work with the University. In fact, it says that we will work with the University offices.
Lambda: Does that make sense though? It’s not like, when something happens, then suddenly we kick in. It’s that we are preventing things from happening. Once things happen, of course, we are not going to have a tribunal to decide what exactly is going to happen in this student’s future. We are there to make sure these situations don’t happen. If they were to happen, then we have specific guidelines that dictate that, of course, the school should come in because this could become a criminal investigation, right?
CM (Sarah): What about preventing hate speech, for example? Especially given AEPi’s leaked emails. Are there any mechanisms in place to address brothers who make xenophobic, racist, misogynistic remarks? Or is this just for sexual assault?
AEPi: I feel like it’s probably appropriate for me to field that one. In our initial meetings, we were sort of pinpointing a lot of problems in Greek Life, and we realized that the one that seemed to be of most concern to everyone on campus, and to everyone in every fraternity, was that of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. So that’s what this document deals with. I should hope that every fraternity on campus has things in place to deal with hate speech or other forms of misconduct in their chapters. I know we do. But yeah, that’s not what this document is about.
Lambda: I will speak for myself though in saying that we hope that this is something that our organization can go to one day address even more issues than what we originally started with. But this is our first quarter. We aren’t going to have every single issue, but the issue that we’re starting with we have addressed very well.
CM (Pete): Can we go around: how many people would be in favor of someday expanding this document to issues beyond sexual misconduct?
DU: Like what?
CM (Pete): Hate speech, hazing, those kinds of things.
AEPi: I think there are probably more complicated answers than just yes or no.
CM (Jamie): How about just expanding in general?
Psi U: The document is re-signed every quarter, and as such there is flexibility there. So it can change, yes.
AEPi: I think we have to continue to address the needs of the Greek community, whatever they are. When this was first being written, I was very much in favor of something addressing hate speech. We wrote up a whole set of baseline sets of standards regarding that, but it just wasn’t something that the whole community felt we needed to address immediately. People felt their standards were good enough. We went above and beyond, but it didn’t seem like the most relevant conversation to be having at the time. Things change, so if needs change for the community, then we can address those. For now, this is what it is.
CM (Jamie): So who is in favor of expanding it? Beyond sexual assault, but in general? Can you raise your hands?
Psi U: When you say who’s in favor—
CM (Jamie): Having it go beyond sexual assault. I feel like that’s not a broad question to ask. Are you willing to, all together as fraternity presidents, address other issues pertinent to the community, in the document? Besides sexual assault?
CM (Maggie): Or maybe have other documents for other issues.
Sig Chi: I think if there was an issue that would benefit from an agreement between all the fraternities, I think we would all agree to sign the document or add on to FCS and address those issues.
CM (Jamie): Would you all agree?
Alpha Delt: I think a lot of people who, sort of—we don’t want it to get contentious where there would be internal power struggles within an organization like this. When you talk about expansion, is it expanding the powers of the actual—I’d be eager to expand to issues where our communication could help. But again, I’m made uncomfortable by a really stratified internal power structure.
DU: My initial response would be to be wary of diluting the purpose of the current organization and the current document. Because I think that is very important to all of us, and very important to campus and the Greek life community. So I think maybe something like Maggie mentioned, having additional documents and pursuing additional opportunities. I don’t think any of us are opposed to saying we don’t want hate speech at our chapter. We’re all here for a reason, right? We want campus to be a safe place, but we also want to be careful to not let this organization die because we bite off more than we can chew or dilute the document with a bunch of amendments and stuff.
CM (Pete): What’s the amendment process, if there is one? Would it have to be unanimous, or is there a majority rule?
Psi U: It essentially would be when we re-sign the document, we can accordingly change it.
CM (Jamie): Can I just ask which fraternities are nationally dry?
CM (Jamie): None of you are nationally dry?
CM (Jamie): Ok. Does FCS have any policies in place for how the fraternities monitor alcohol distribution and consumption at open parties?
DU: (whispers) It’s in the policy.
CM (Jamie): Yeah. Can you talk about it a little?
Sig Ep: So in Section 3, Article F: “All beverages must be served in front of guests. Unattended or abandoned beverages should be thrown away by brothers.”
CM (Maggie): And do you think that policy is taken seriously?
CM (Jamie): Phi Delt is still throwing parties on campus, even though they were suspended. Do you feel they should be able to throw these parties? And where do you think the line is drawn between a group of brothers who are hosting a party versus an IFC-regulated, fraternity-sponsored event? How is that distinction made when dealing with FCS policy?
Psi U: I’m not sure what Phi Delt even is at this point, but that’s a question to ask Phi Delt, I guess.
AEPi: It’s news to me that they’re still doing things. But they’re not Phi Delt anymore. They’re not nationally affiliated. They don’t even have a charter. Whatever that group of guys decides to do, they can do. They’re students here. They have to abide by the laws of Chicago, state of Illinois, and the United States of America, but beyond that it’s not really my place to say what they do or don’t do. I don’t think they should be considered a fraternity.
CM (Pete): So you guys have not had any association with them at all, formal or informal?
Alpha Delt: Also, are these parties you’re describing be held in their space—in their house?
CM (Jamie): No.
CM (Maggie): I don’t think the house is theirs anymore, is it?
CM (Jamie): No, it’s not. Moving on to the second part of the question, where do you all draw the line between a group of brothers getting together and throwing a party at the house or somewhere else and an actual open party where the IFC guidelines are posted? What is the threshold for counting it as a party?
AEPi: So in the document, you’ll note in the Preamble section, there’s a note, italicized at the bottom that says “We define a “social event” as any open gathering of brothers and guests that is organized and formally hosted by the fraternity on its premises.” So that’s where we all draw the line on a social event.
Psi U: Say that you have three guys going to Thai 55. That’s not formally hosted by a fraternity. That’s just individual people going and doing something by themselves.
CM (Annie): What happens when there’s a big enough group of guys who are hosting a party at an apartment or something? Is it still affiliated with the fraternity?
Psi U: If it’s being formally hosted.
CM (Jamie): What is your definition of formally hosted then?
Psi U: Well, for most organizations in general, if there are finances involved. I know most fraternities have their own chapter account in a bank or something. So if that’s funding an event, then that would be a fraternity formally hosted event.
CM (Maggie): So FIJI’s parties at Maclean last quarter. Would those have been considered—
FIJI: So for any formally hosted party, the finances obviously come into play. Also on any events or Facebook events, the FCS guidelines will be posted. At any social events that are not formally posted, either those would be posted or someone would say this is not a formally hosted FIJI event, just to make sure. But typically any larger gatherings, it’ll be pretty specific whether it is or isn’t hosted by the fraternity.
CM (Jamie): The situation I’m thinking of is sort of a spontaneous event where a bunch of people are hanging out, you start inviting people over, it gets bigger. You’re not buying anything for that, but it’s still a party at the house. Do you feel, as your fraternity’s president, that you have a responsibility to adhere by the IFC guidelines in a situation like that? I mean of course you do, but would you?
Sig Ep: Well, if it’s on our premises then yeah, in the same way as if you host an apartment party, if you live there it’s your duty to make sure your guests are comfortable.
CM (Pete): But if you just have 20 people over, you don’t have to have three sober party monitors do you?
AEPi: Well I mean, that’s sort of the ambiguity of it. Yes, if we have 20 people over, and it’s just a bad event that we advertise and pay for and everything, and 20 people show up. I should hope we’re adhering to these standards. But if we plan for zero people and the AEPi house, and for those of you who haven’t been there— I assume most of you— is structured such that there is six individual apartments, and people live in there and rent them from Washington and Hyde Park Properties LLC, and people can have a couple people can have people over in their apartments. Like a friend of mine, you know, is having people over in the apartment across the hall, and I’m not gonna put up three sober monitors for that event because that’s not an event I am hosting or paying for. I’m not inviting those people. I have no affiliation with that, the person just lives in that apartment in the house and it’s going to be self contained. I personally don’t feel responsible for making sure that event is adhering to FCS standards but you know, if I decide that we will host a large event for everyone on campus, then yes, we will adhere by the standards. So it’s a case-by-case thing and it really does depend on what every individual chapter decides to do. I mean it’s really hard to understand outside of a fraternity but I think everyone here knows what does constitute an event for their chapter, and I don’t think there’s a lot of grey area there.
Alpha Delt: A risk I think about that is that we’re a pretty small house, but I guess for a large house a different heuristic is being used but as soon as a party begins to reach a point where there is lots of people that I don’t know that will be there, not just a few of my friends and their friends. And it’s hosted on site. That would fall under the jurisdiction of FCS.
DU: I mean we’re all rational humans, I mean Jamie would you consider hanging out and drinking a beer in your room a party? I wouldn’t and so I wouldn’t consider that a party at the house and I wouldn’t require three sober monitors in the room while you and your friend are drinking beer at DU. But, you know I think there’s a level of discretion there and interpretation because no party is the same, and it would be almost restrictive to apply some sort of stringent requirement because perhaps we need more sober monitors there. You know, no party is the same there needs to be some flexibility and that is a pretty damn specific guideline. I mean, I don’t know, you can nit-pick it if you want but it seems—I don’t know—it seems pretty adequate to me.
AEPi: And we come back to the fact that this is all something that we signed on to voluntarily, this is a set of standards that our fraternities have come up with together because we thought that they would benefit the community. It’s not like we want to throw events and not adhere to these standards and think we’re getting away with something. I think that’s the last thing that any of us want. If it’s an event on my premises, I think we all probably gonna air on the side of caution here and try to adhere to these standards when we think it’s necessary.
DU: It’s not also to say that just because the FCS document doesn’t require something that doesn’t mean the chapter president or the officers of the chapter won’t act. It’s a set of guidelines. We can do more.
CM (Pete): I was wondering if you guys think that this policy needs to be in place because fraternity brothers disproportionately commit sexual assault compared to the rest of the student body or do you think that’s a false perception that some people may have?
Psi U: I don’t know if I can speak to any exact statistics because you know, I don’t know any of those studies well enough—the methodology or the nitty gritty—to comment on the statistic you referenced, so I can’t really comment on a statistic you referenced, but I mean, I think one reason we all agreed to this is because we all know that we have the ability to make campus a little bit safer and do our part to make the campus a safer place, a more comfortable place, and do our part to promote education about sexual violence. That’s why one of the things we’re doing is coming together and hosting a seminar every year… we now make attending an RSVP workshop or something of that ilk mandatory for any member coming in, so I think our goal is to help limit sexual violence of all kinds. However we can. And, that is a good goal regardless of whatever statistic may be.
DU: All you have to do is open the pages of your own newspaper and see that it’s not just the priority of these 10 people here. It’s a priority across campus.
CM (Annie): You mentioned the workshops, you said it’s an annual seminar?
Psi U: What we started to do, is have an annual RSVP seminar—wait, not RSVP, another organization—but it’s a seminar that promotes education about sexual violence prevention.
CM (Annie): You said there will be workshops, will incoming brothers be required to go to something like that?
Psi U: You can just look at the education section of the document and the standards that we’re implementing.
CM (Maggie): Do you think the University, in additional to national organizations, should have the ability to suspend or sanction Greek organizations for repeated violations—sexual assault, or anything else?
DU: That’s a complicated issue I think, with a lot of legal things involved.
AEPi: They choose not to acknowledge us, and sort of just acknowledge us as students, so as long as that’s the case it doesn’t really make sense to address us as organizations.
CM (Maggie): And you guys like that independence?
DU: It’s been that way since like 1901.
CM (Pete): If the University came to you tomorrow and said ‘we want to recognize Greek organizations, we want to recognize fraternities,’ would you push back on that or would you be onboard with it?
DU: It wouldn’t be up to our decisions, I’m sure, it would be something they would have to talk with the national organization about.
AEPi: The national organizations, our whole chapters, we would have to work out exactly the mechanism of that and what the details would be, by what means we would be recognized, we would have to speak to MGC, because I think they would have a different stance on that than we would. It really does depend.
Lambda: I will say that is the opposite of what the University stance has been thanks to the student engagement fund etc.
Alpha Delt: I would be happy to work with the University if they came forward in good faith and with assurances that the place where I live wasn’t about to be turned into another wing of Saieh Hall.
CM (Jamie): Let’s hear more from the other side of the room… What do you think is the single most important thing fraternities can do to prevent sexual assault at fraternities?
Sig Ep: Adhere to the FCS document.
Sig Chi: So I think new member education in terms of how we can prevent sexual violence is really important. I know in Sigma Chi we require that every incoming pledge class attend an RSVP workshop. So I think just really emphasizing how committed we are to safety is important in what we can do to prevent sexual violence.
Alpha Delt: Also maintaining a physical place that’s safe and welcoming to the best of your ability is important. Like, I know the people who I am in my organization with, I believe they are good people and I trust them to do the right thing in all circumstances, pretty openly and pretty unequivocally. The bulk of my concern is from when there are hundreds of people from around campus streaming into the house every week, and how we provide a space… there is no space that is not surveilled and there is no opportunity for there to be a spiking of drinks or any of that terrible behavior.
AEPi: To dovetail off of Kyle and Thomas, I think the best thing we could do is teach bystander intervention. I mean that, to me, is the baseline thing. Same with Kyle, I trust my brothers, I trust the education we put into place. We have sets of standards, these guys know these standards. We’ve taught them how to be responsible. At events, a lot of people are working shifts, a lot of people are sober, they understand how important this is. I can’t verify that the random people entering my party have been vetted to the same sort of standards. So I think it’s incredibly important that the members of my chapter know how to intervene when they see something that shouldn’t be going on. So I think that’s step one—is to have education.
DU: And that’s not to say that that’s a cure-all, either for sexual assault beyond fraternities. But I think that fraternities are uniquely positioned to be strong figures in bystander intervention. I mean people are at their house, they have a right to kick you out if you’re doing some shady shit.
CM (Annie): Would anybody like to speak to the extent to which discussion amongst frat brothers about sexual encounters creates an environment that’s not conducive to respect, or that’s not a safe environment where people might feel welcome? Maybe in the form of e-mails, texts, Facebook posts…. That sort of thing.
Psi U: I think at the end of the day a very important part of combatting sexual violence and doing our part to eliminate it is promoting a culture that promotes respect, and that promotes being a conscientious good person. It’s important that there is a culture of people looking out for their fellow students and trying to make sure no one is in a position they don’t want to be in. And I think that’s something that we all endeavor to do every single day and make sure that that’s important not only in the minds of the people in the fraternities but the minds of the people we associate ourselves with on a daily basis.
Sig Ep: We don’t condone anything which would lead our brothers to think that being disrespectful towards people is okay or something that we don’t look upon very negatively.
CM (Pete): I’m wondering if you guys feel like you guys have an obligation to notify campus when a brother is expelled from your chapter? I mean obviously Psi U you wrote that letter to the editor in The Maroon, Sig Chi, you gave us a statement earlier this quarter when a brother was expelled. I’m wondering if all of you guys can say that you would notify campus if your chapter made the decision to expel a brother or if it came from nationals.
AEPi: I mean, thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that. But, I would imagine in the case where I feel as though one of my brothers was expelled for something that impacted the campus community, or compromised the safety of our space as a fraternity, then I absolutely think it would be necessary to notify campus as a whole. I very much thought the letter that Psi U wrote to The Maroon was well written and a good example of what to do in that case.
CM (Pete): Would anyone not feel an obligation to notify campus?
DU: If it’s in the interest of the campus to know about it, sure.
CM (Pete): But not all expulsions would be?
DU: I mean it depends on what we’re expelling someone for.
CM (Maggie): For sexual assault?
DU: Well then probably, yes. Right?
CM (Annie): Well then what’s an example of something that wouldn’t be in the interest of the campus?
AEPi: Well we would expel people for not paying dues. Guys who have just decided to de-affiliate and it’s the thing to do nationally, is to expel them for not paying dues. I don’t think everyone on campus needs to know that a guy is not paying his dues and does not want to be in the chapter anymore.
CM (Pete): But Stephen, any sort of misconduct, hazing, hate speech, sexual assault would you notify campus?
Alpha Delt: Unless doing so would divulge sensitive information about someone's health or mental health. That’s an obvious one that comes to mind. If someone leaves the chapter for issues pertaining to their mental health or just health in general than that’s obviously something I would not share with the community at large. That would be a terrible thing to do.
CM (Pete): But presumably, you wouldn’t expel a member for mental health issues, right?
Alpha Delt: Well, no.
CM (Grace): So you guys are obviously the ones putting in the most effort for this document, but can you just walk us through how you presented this to your chapters, was it a link you just posted in a Facebook group? What did that look like?
Sig Ep: I went through it with my chapter at one of our weekly meetings, it had been on everyone’s radar, and we were all committed to making our campus a safer space so I updated them as the document was being drawn up, I updated them at certain stages, then notified them when we were ready to sign.
Psi U: The individual brothers were very bought into this and were a part of this for the entire process of its creation. In fact, I thought some of the guidance and additions to the document that came from of my brothers were fantastic ideas and we then brought them to the rest of the presidents discussing this. So, they were very involved.
CM (Maggie): Last question, Sarah?
CM (Sarah): Yeah, so my question kind of goes back to Jamie’s in which she asked, “What do you think is the most important thing fraternities can do to prevent sexual assault?” Some have argued, in The Maroon, that the best thing to do would be to ban fraternities all together, why do you think that we still need fraternities on campus and why is bystander intervention necessarily a better solution than just getting rid of frats.
AEPi: I mean you asked why do we need fraternities, I mean, why do we need The Maroon?
CM (Maggie): Ooof. Okay, but how would you defend the presence of fraternities?
Psi U: One thing I thought was very true from the article that Grace worked on in Grey City magazine, there’s a quote in there that discussed the value of having a support—a community that offers support to its members, offers mentorship to its members. I think that’s important, and there are groups like that of all kinds. Whether it’s a strong house culture, and people feel like they can talk to fourth-years in their house. People can think, “I don’t know what major I want, I don’t know what job I want to go after,” or I mean having someone — say in your house — be like “Hey, you know, I’m going through a really tough time right now can we talk?” For me, I was in Midway House, or any organization, I think that’s something fraternities offer.
CM (Sarah): So why couldn’t you go to another RSO or your house, for example, instead of a fraternity…. It has been reported, that quite possibly, fraternity brothers commit sexual assault 300 times more than other members of campus, not necessarily this campus, but nationally. [Editor's note: The statistic Sarah is citing states that fraternity brothers are actually 300 percent more likely to commit sexual assault, not 300 times.]
Psi U: Again, I can’t really comment on that statistic. But, I can say that when I came into my house as a first year—no offense to formerly-known as Midway House—but like, I didn’t feel the strong connection to some of the people in my house. Some organizations I have absolutely loved—some of them have been great sources of support and have been a great community and others have been communities I didn’t connect with in the same way.
Lambda: I think that’s also picking like, the worst, when which like, yes—every tree has some bad apples and those are situations that our organizations are regretful of—but at the same time like, MGC organizations which are also fraternities that are very much a part of our community have been on our campus for over a century. And we have done things, such as raise cumulatively hundreds of dollars if not millions of dollars at the length of the efforts, many of our organizations have those programs. We have been responsible for creating a lot of change on this campus as well, such as for example, Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Gamma Alpha were responsible for desegregating our dorms—their alumni were at the time. And the first African-American professor at the Law School, for example, comes from our chapters. I think that there is a lot of redeemability when we look at the history of our Greek life, not just nationally, but on our campus itself. I think these organizations, like many other organizations, have done great things as well.
FIJI: I know we’ve touched some on education that goes in with FCS and personally in my chapter, I mean obviously I haven’t been there real long and I haven’t been in the chapter throughout it’s history, but I can say that going through the education and being able to actually have the conversations about these things that are vitally important as a member of a chapter where a lot of our members are involved in things such as sports teams, we don’t have those kinds of conversations. So as far as education and actually learning what’s right and what to do in certain situations I do think it’s been very beneficial to have obviously the FCS, but to have the fraternity to be able to be close enough to actually have those conversations, which can be difficult.
CM (Grace): I just wanted to clarify, going back to what we started with in the beginning, because you guys are saying [you] clearly don’t have the education and resources and whatever to deal with these more serious issues of sexual assault so you don’t ask that they report it but within your chapters, when do you actually find out that a brother is under investigation, if ever, how does that process come about?
Psi U: So I think two quick things. One, I don’t think that really would be an education component of the document because I think that really is more of judicially how do you deal with assault, and I think that’s a gray area and the part of reason it’s a gray area is FERPA. And even the University’s policy in respect to sexual misconduct hearings, themselves, identify fraternities as relationships that fall outside of the special relationship of people that you are permitted to tell the details of the hearings or the case to—if the University is having a case or hearing about a sexual assault. So I think with that legal infrastructure in play, that’s why it depends on individuals coming and letting fraternities know whether it’s brothers or not brothers and I think—
CM (Grace): Do you think a brother would actually come and let you know, knowing he would be expelled and actually risk the entire fraternity being booted out of this council?
Psi U: I think I would certainly hope so. And I think that’s the importance of education— not only understanding the importance of doing everything you can to prevent these actions, but knowing the moral actions at play and knowing how you should respond. And that’s certainly something to be valued.
CM (Grace): I just imagine a situation where on all counts on the surface it seems like nobody is reporting anything and everything is going great, but little do you know that you have five guys under investigation and each fraternity wouldn’t know because no one is recording it. But you would say the answer is new member education? And instilling morals more generally so that they would come forward themselves because otherwise you would have no idea?
Psi U: I mean we can do everything we can, but at a certain point the University tells everyone who is under a certain hearing “No, you cannot tell your fraternity,” I’m not sure what else we can do—that’s set in stone. But we certainly do try to foster and cultivate a culture that does have people who not only would not commit these actions, but would take accountability for themselves if they were to.
CM (Grace): Has that ever happened? Has anybody ever come forward to your knowledge?
Psi U: I mean, in the time that I have been president, no. Or the time that I was president I should say, no.
CM (Pete): I want to ask one last clarification question. Is it possible to breach the document without any sort of policy violation? So if just the sheer number of incidences of sexual assault at fraternities—say there’s a pattern of four or five brothers in a quarter are being investigated by the University or suspended—could that lead to a chapter not being invited to re-sign even if there’s no chapter-wide failure?
AEPi: I mean it is a vote of the signed fraternities to see who is able to come back. So I mean if a fraternity has seven issues in a quarter, I would assume that they would not be voted back to be able to sign again. I think that would indicate a pattern of maybe not following…. But if they follow the document to the letter and that still happens, I mean there are serious conversations that would need to happen and we would need to talk to them about. I mean, are they really doing the education in earnest, are they really adhering to these principles, are they really doing anything both to the letter and the spirit of the document? And I can almost guarantee that if those instances are coming up time and time again the answer is going to be no.
Psi U: I mean again, if you look to Section 5, Point D, Sub-point A, in the actual document it does say that the vote is to determine if signing members upheld the spirit of the document, so if a fraternity clearly seems to have a disregard towards sexual violence and its role to help prevent that than that is, as written in the document, grounds for fraternities to vote that they are not allowed to resign the document.
CM (Maggie): Did you guys consult any sororities or women when you were writing this document?
Psi U: Absolutely. We spoke with the Panhellenic sororities, and the Panhellenic Council and the executive members there, as I said earlier, we met with the Phoenix Survivors Alliance and discussed this document with them. In addition, personally, I reached out to girls that I’m friends with on campus asking “What do you think of this?” you know on a day-to-day basis.
CM (Maggie): Did they give you suggestions for things to add?
Psi U: Incredibly helpful ones.
CM (Maggie): Well thank you guys so much for coming in, I think this was really helpful and educational.
Editor's note: Stephen Moreland, president of DU, is the former managing editor of The Maroon.