Fraternities and sororities have hosted events throughout the quarter to raise awareness for sexual assault.
Liberal arts and engineering studies junior and Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) alumni chair Kevin Gong was a part of his fraternity’s “Speakeasy” event.
“Culture change is not just about one house or one individual’s actions. It’s a bigger problem. The harsh reality is that our problems, whether we like it or not, are bound to happen to someone you know, so why wouldn’t anyone want to be a part of that difference?” Gong said. “I think we as greeks see that and are striving to do our best in order to tackle the conversations.”
Fraternities and sororities have been on social probation for most of winter quarter after reported sexual assaults in the fall. The university asked greek life to come up with a sexual assault action plan to help change the culture around sexual assault.
Students Taking Action Towards University Safety (STATUS) was created to address that culture change. The document mentions the need for each chapter to create programs that address sexual assault if they are not already in place.
Below are some of the events that occurred this quarter, as well as a look at what’s to come:
The Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council and United Sorority and Fraternity Council (USFC) hosted the Clothesline Project — a visual display of decorated T-shirts to raise awareness for sexual assault. The event took place from March 3 to 5 on Dexter Lawn.
Child development junior and Panhellenic Vice President for Philanthropy and Service Winnie Chen helped plan the event.
The Clothesline Project is an international and ongoing project. Participants donate, decorate and display shirts to showcase issues revolving around sexual assault.
The shirts were hung from a clothesline on Dexter Lawn for people to observe while walking by. The event was open to the general public.
Most people decorated the shirts with things they wanted the campus community to know rather than share their own personal story, according to Chen.
“One of the concerns were that people would not feel comfortable sharing their story out on a huge open lawn where there is a lot of foot traffic,” Chen said.
According to Chen, fraternities and sororities donated 190 shirts for the event, and 136 of those shirts were decorated. The shirts that were not decorated will be donated to the Prado Day Center, the homeless shelter in San Luis Obispo. Some of the decorated shirts will be given to Sexual Assault Free Environment Resource (Safer).
On March 3, Delta Sigma Phi (DSP) hosted Greek Goddess, a beauty pageant that raised money for Safer. The event raised about $2,000.
Biochemistry junior and DSP engineered leadership chair Eric Winkler was in charge of planning and running the event.
“I think this event was a huge success because after two years of hiatus, we profited $2,000. All of the sororities loved it. All of DSP had a great time,” Winkler said.
The fraternity decided to donate its profits to Safer so the organization could have an expanded budget to create more services and education opportunities.
“The best way to prevent sexual assault is to create the risk management plan that we did and also to educate the community,” Winkler said. “I thought that if Safer had money, they would be able to put on more events where they can reach the community from an educational standpoint.”
Every sorority had a representative participating in the pageant. They were judged on three categories: best-dressed, response to an interview question and their chosen talent. The three judges were girls involved with Safer.
The winner of the pageant was Alpha Phi’s Madi Jacoby.
DSP plans on hosting Greek Goddess every year from now on. Winkler hopes that the growth of the event will mean increased publicity of the event and even more money to donate to the chosen organization.
“(The event) showed that DSP stands against nonconsensual sex and that all of the sororities were behind it, too,” Winkler said. “It’s going to be beneficial to Safer so that in the future, they can provide more services and education for generations to come.”
Phi Psi worked with Safer to create an event called Speakeasy — a seminar held with Chi Omega where participants discussed ways to change the culture of sexual assault. The event took place on Feb. 10.
Political science junior and IFC Vice President of Programming Sam Canino co-planned the event with theater and dance junior and Phi Psi member Max Becker.
“We wanted to figure out how to start a conversation in our own organization and maybe with someone else about how to make this problem something easier to talk about,” Canino said. “One of the things he and I realized is that discussions change community. That’s what we wanted to start — a discussion.”
About 25 Phi Psi members, 20 Chi Omega members and at least eight or nine Safer representatives attended the event, according to Canino. The participants were split up into groups where they discussed how to prevent sexual assault.
According to Canino, some suggestions discussed include:
- Giving the sober fraternity member at a party a T-shirt that indicates he is the person to go to when there is a problem.
- Providing water, food and soda as alternatives at parties.
- Creating contracts between “little bros” and “big bros” to say they will watch out for each other.
- Sending the risk manager out to introduce themselves to sororities. The risk manager is the person who oversees social events and is the main person to contact if a situation doesn’t seem right.
Because of social probation, Phi Psi has not had the opportunity to test out any of these ideas, but it plans on implementing some of these suggestions as soon as it can, according to Canino.
The fraternity hopes to continue hosting the event for quarters to come.
“Culture change doesn’t come through big events alone. As much success as we can have at Phi Psi’s Speakeasy, it matters what individuals do after the fact,” Gong said. “Individuals who take it upon themselves to be part of the solution will eventually change the organization as a whole.”
Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA)
Every Friday in February, each fraternity sent at least two members to Greeks Against Sexual Assault — training sessions to learn about sexual assault and larger societal issues that play into that culture.
Civil engineering senior, student assistant for Safer and Sigma Nu member Alex Thomas created the event last year.
“I think it’s safe to say there is a subset of culture in greek life,” Thomas said. “I wanted to work from within that culture and raise awareness for sexual assault and other things that go into that.”
Thomas’ hope was for the attendees to report back to their fraternity about things they learned in the session. Each session was about two hours long and had approximately 60 people in attendance.
“I’ve been blown away with the sincerity and the desire to create change from the members who went through it,” Thomas said. “It was cool to see people acknowledge the fact that there are areas of improvement and to want to make that change.”
Panhellenic will host its own GASA in spring quarter, similar to the discussion-based IFC’s GASA, according to business junior member of the Safety & Wellness Committee for Panhellenic Cate Fisher.
Another upcoming event is Sigma Nu’s “Turning the Tables on Sexual Assault” on April 4, which involves decorating and displaying tables to raise awareness for sexual assault. The proceeds from this event will go to RISE, a non-profit organization in San Luis Obispo that provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, according to civil engineering senior and Sigma Nu president James Dillon.