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April 10, 2017

Amid Criticism of Violations, Fraternities Re-Sign Safety Pledge

According to Phoenix Survivors Alliance (PSA), a sexual assault survivor advocacy group on campus, several fraternities have violated the Fraternities Committed to Safety (FCS) policy created and signed last fall. Despite a push from members of PSA to delay the re-signing of FCS, nine fraternities re-signed the document in a meeting on Sunday afternoon. 

FCS is a policy that outlines “a baseline of procedures aimed at preventing and properly responding to incidents of sexual violence,” according to the FCS website. The policy details a number of educational, preventative, and responsive steps that its signatories must follow at public events in order to prevent sexual assault. Each signatory then provided a fraternity-specific code of conduct. Last fall, 10 fraternities signed onto the policy. 

On March 1, PSA announced on its Facebook page that it would be visiting fraternities intermittently to see if they were adhering to FCS.  

“We attend the parties generally sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight (always completely sober). We usually go in groups of two to four. We also usually let them know at the door that we are with PSA.... The exception to this would be Alpha Delt, where we did not attend any of their events in any official capacity, but as regular partygoers, where we noticed several violations (and informed a brother as soon as we could),” PSA Co-President Ryn Seidewitz wrote in an email to The Maroon

On April 5, PSA published a document on Facebook outlining their observed violations of the policy. The alleged violations occurred at fraternity-sponsored social events at Delta Upsilon (DU), Alpha Delta Phi (Alpha Delt), Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep), and Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), and were recorded on three separate dates. During the meeting on Sunday, members of PSA noted that they had not attended events hosted by every fraternity.  

In the document, PSA specifies whether or not the violation is “major” or “minor,” and whether or not it was corrected immediately, hesitantly, or never. The severity of the infractions depends on the magnitude of the infraction relative to the size of the event, as decided by PSA.  

DU had the fewest number of alleged violations, all of which were characterized as minor and corrected immediately, according to the PSA document. DU was visited by PSA representatives at an event on February 18 and was cited only for unattended drinks, which were disposed of as soon as a brother was notified. 

DU President Stephen Moreland told The Maroon in an email that the fraternity appreciates PSA’s efforts and that he had already spoken with the PSA representatives who were present at the February 18 event. He claims that since the event, changes have been made to make the shirts worn by sober party monitors more obvious and to include the DU code of conduct in the description for public event pages. 

“DU is incredibly appreciative of PSA’s willingness to work with us in creating a safe and comfortable environment during social events…. [I am] happy to report that our chapter has implemented their recommendations,” Moreland wrote in an email to The Maroon.  

Other fraternities did not fully agree with the PSA allegations. PSA wrote that on March 31, Sig Ep hosted a social event that did not have obviously distinguishable monitors and had a monitor of “questionable sobriety.” They also alleged that there was no accessible water cooler and that there were unattended drinks, procedures for which are outlined in FCS. In the policy, fraternities pledged to have accessible water coolers on every floor, but Sig Ep only had “unattended water bottles.” PSA classified these as major and minor violations, and specified that they were never corrected. 

In an email to The Maroon, Sig Ep president Rahil Khemani wrote that he did not know who was told to correct the issues at the time, since he was not informed of the infractions, and neither were the other risk managers at the party. Khemani suggested that a number of the allegations made by PSA did not fit his interpretation of the events. 

“I’m mainly confused as to the water issue. I couldn’t get coolers in time, so I bought cases of water bottles instead, which in my opinion are actually way safer than coolers. The bottles are obviously completely sealed and we had more than enough of them,” Khemani wrote.  

Furthermore, Khemani claims that since the sober monitors were the only brothers wearing letters, he thought they would be easily identifiable to other attendees. In the future, he hopes to have the party monitors wear safety vests so that they are more visible. As for their sobriety, Khemani wrote that he was “pretty sure” they were sober and was not made aware if they weren’t. He also wrote that he will encourage the party monitors to take sobriety at the party more seriously. 

One of the major allegations against Alpha Delt was that a person wearing a sober monitor vest implied he was intoxicated in a Snapchat shown to a PSA member. Alpha Delt President Nate Lewis wrote in an email to The Maroon that because the only people at the event were current or potential brothers, the vest was not being used by someone in an official monitor role. PSA claimed that because the vest represented the party monitor role, wearing it while intoxicated was against the “spirit of the document.” 

Lewis wrote that Alpha Delt intends to uphold the policies and spirit of the document in the future. 

PSA found five violations at a DKE event on March 31, which it said ranged from major to minor. Kevin Walsh, DKE president, wrote in an email to The Maroon that the fraternity is fully committed to the FCS. “We will gladly take up the recommendations given to us by PSA, and we truly appreciate the work that they are putting in to make our campus a safer place!” Walsh wrote. 

PSA submitted the observed violations on the FCS website, which states that “a representative will reach out to you shortly after submission” of a reported violation. As of the meeting on April 9, PSA had not heard back about any of submitted complaints. 

Discussion of these alleged violations dominated the first half of the meeting on Sunday, which was attended by nine fraternity presidents, former Psi U president and meeting facilitator Drew Armstrong, and PSA representatives Ryn Seidewitz, Juliette Hautemont, and Alice Kallman. The president of Lambda Phi Epsilon (Lambda), one of the 10 original signatories, was not present. 

According to Michael Meng, vice president of Lambda, the signing member of the fraternity was out of town and unable to make the re-signing meeting. In an April 10 e-mail to The Maroon, Meng wrote that all the other fraternity presidents who were at the meeting are now aware of the situation. On the day of the meeting, the other presidents seemed unaware of the circumstances surrounding Lambda’s president’s absence. 

At the meeting, PSA distributed more detailed copies of the document that they had published on Facebook earlier that week. Each fraternity listed in the document had the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Furthermore, the document suggested some ways that the policy could be changed to better uphold the “spirit of the document.”

While both groups mostly agreed that there was room for improvement in the adherence to the policy, at least among the fraternities with recorded violations, the two groups disagreed on the overall effectiveness of the document. 

At one point in the meeting, Hautemont stated, “We can all agree this isn’t working, right?” and was met with a chorus of objections. When Kallman stated that all of the fraternities had in different ways violated the policy, many of the fraternity presidents whose fraternities had not been visited by PSA claimed they had never been in violation. Zeta Psi president Josh Warren claimed that his fraternity had been following the guidelines “to a T.” 

At one point in the meeting, Hautemont objected to one president’s claim that the document was a “good start,” since several of the fraternities had already had trouble following their own guidelines. Her statement was met once again with objections. 

“The presence of an effort is a marked difference from my freshman year going to a frat party,” Moreland said, garnering head nods from his fellow presidents. He noted that during his first year, he would rarely see sober monitors or water coolers at parties. 

PSA critiqued the document as unenforceable, noting that there were no formal methods for enforcement outlined in the policy. PSA also stated that it should not be the sole party responsible for monitoring compliance, because it is unable to cover every social event. Several options were discussed, including the incorporation of unofficial sorority monitors at events. PSA argued that this would also be complicated, since sorority members might have complex social ties to fraternities.  

PSA’s final and strongest recommendation was that the fraternities should attempt to gain formal recognition by the University through the creation of an Interfraternity Council, which would serve to enforce the policy and hold fraternities accountable. 

The request was met with resistance from the presidents, who claimed that it would be inappropriate for them to commit to looking into creating a University-sanctioned Interfraternity Council without speaking with their national organizations. They also claimed that the creation of such a council was not solely dependent on them, but also on the University. PSA offered to help them put pressure on the University in order to facilitate the process, but the fraternities were unanimously opposed to promising that they would look into the creation of a council. 

Moreland then transitioned the group to the issue of re-signing. He suggested that the group move forward and promise to discuss PSA’s recommendations, sans Interfraternity Council, for a revised version of the document. PSA said that the fraternities should not be able to re-sign at all, since they had not followed the policy.  

“I’m going to motion to re-sign now adding the stipulation that we as a group are committed to revising the document in the future [...] and allowing this to be a working document, and once there is another revision, having to resign that,” Moreland said. 

Each fraternity president was given the opportunity to comment on the current policy and PSA’s suggestions before the others voted on whether or not they would be allowed to re-sign. Then, the fraternity affirmed their desire to re-sign. All fraternities were unanimously voted to be allowed to re-sign. 

PSA argued that Lambda should not be able to re-sign at all, since no representative was there to hear all of PSA’s suggestions for a revised document. The presidents voted to allow Lambda to re-sign. 

“After I have a chance to read over the edits we as a fraternity will decide quickly whether or not to re-sign and then act accordingly. Each of the fraternity presidents present are aware of our situation,” Meng wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon.  

The fraternities agreed to meet in two weeks to discuss PSA’s suggestions and incorporate them into a revised policy, which they would then re-sign. 

Editor's Note: Delta Upsilon President Stephen Moreland is a former Managing Editor of The Maroon.

Correction on April 11, 2017, 5:24 p.m. CDT:

The article originally stated that the Snapchat of the intoxicated Alpha Delt brother in the safety vest was sent to a member of PSA. In fact, the Snapchat was sent to a third party, who showed it to the PSA member.

Correction on April 12, 2017, 9:41 p.m. CDT:

The members of PSA attended events and noted violations on three separate nights, not four.

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