Following a column by Nathanial Haas published in Neon Tommy, all eyes are on the University of Southern California right now for what Haas calls failure. It is “the failure of USC to put meaningful words on the record as part of a transparent discussion,” he says, “the failure of a predominant social system to attend to its gross exploitation of women, and the campus-wide failure to stand up and say, ‘no more.’”
The school, he believes, is allowing for sexual assault to persist, particularly within fraternities, due to the lack of acknowledgment and lack of punishment students reportedly face.
In part, this video of a USC Phi Psi party sparked the discussion.
My initial thought of the video was that it was awesome. I took it at face value. Clearly a parody of some gladiator/viking/warrior movie I’d never seen, intended to pump up the fraternity, elicit a few laughs, and get everyone excited about the party they were about to host. But the words that everyone is stuck on, of course: “Fuck who you must.”
Do I think that the fraternity intended to say “Fuck who you must regardless of their personal feelings and affirmative consent”? I do not. Do I see this as very inadvisable concluding word choice with the likely outcome that people are going to be upset? I do.
The fraternity responded to the incident with the following statement, but received no punishment from the university:
Last November, a video was filmed and uploaded online featuring a man at the Phi Kappa Psi house making statements that do not align with the values of our chapter. This individual was not affiliated with Phi Kappa Psi and our chapter does not condone his statement nor any statement that promotes sexual assault. The video was shot and uploaded by a third party without the authorization of our chapter leadership and would not have been authorized if it had been brought to our attention. After this video was brought to our attention, our chapter’s leadership immediately contacted the individual who uploaded the video and requested that it be removed, which it was. The two individuals who were responsible for this video have been banned from attending any future chapter events and we have held workshops regarding sexual assault prevention and awareness.
University of Southern California ‘16
President Phi Kappa Psi
The validity of the email has come into question, with some people claiming that the dude in the fur, was in fact a Phi Psi, and others claiming it was the student’s twin brother, who doesn’t attend USC. The video also allegedly remained on YouTube for almost 11 months after it was initially posted.
Still, USC asserts it does not have a problem on its campus, and claims to be “well within the national averages” with regard to sexual assault, but a study sponsored by the American Association of Universities found that the national average of sexual assaults on campus is 23.1%. USC’s is 29.7% making it the second highest rate of sexual assault for undergrads.
A large portion of campus rapes, allegedly 90%, are committed by serial rapists. When asked how the campus deals with serial rapists, Dr. Ainsley Carry, the Vice Provost of Student Affairs at USC told Haas:
“We don’t have a special intervention for repeat offenders, other than that when we get these reports, we take them all seriously. When we receive multiple reports on an individual student, we will intervene.”
After some conversation on how to help eradicate sexual assault on campus, the discussion circled back to fraternities, specifically. Haas developed a few charts to determine fraternities’ “Creepiness Frequency,” an incredibly unfair measure and prejudice term, regardless of the study. He found that the higher a fraternity ranked, the more hookups there were within that fraternity and the more likely they were to be “creepy” or sexually aggressive, which seems fairly obvious. The more popular a fraternity is, the more people go to their parties, the higher the chance for something bad to happen.
The solutions, Haas concluded with the help of University of Michigan sociology professor Elizabeth Armstrong, are some things we’ve heard before. Either have sororities host parties, or “sororify” fraternities — make them behave the way sororities do.
“From this point of view, the solution is not to involve sororities in the risk, litigation, deaths, keg standards, and other ridiculousness, but to make fraternities act like sororities,” Armstrong said. “That is, to hold all parties in public venues with alcohol appropriately and legally dispensed, monitored, etc. Of course this might kill Greek life, but if it does, it only proves that there is no point to it other than boozing.”
This type of approach would not kill Greek life, but it would change it for sure. Frat houses to me, feel almost as much a part of the experience as the organizations themselves, but we are moving, as a society, toward permanent change, and it might behoove the fraternities to make such a change, so that neither they or the women who come to their events are at risk.
Another suggestion was to basically scare parents out of funding fraternities. It’s no surprise that the organizations come with some hefty dues, and that parties themselves can cost about $10k a pop.
“If the parents stop paying for the party, the party stops,” Armstrong said. “They are actually lubricating, financially, the very activities that are leading to a decent chance that their kid will develop an alcohol problem, engage in sexual assault, be sexually assaulted, die, fall out of a window, or tank their grades.”
To me, this is utterly ridiculous and unrealistic. Not to mention, completely stunts the emotional growth and ability to accept responsibility from a generation who is already so emotionally stunted. These are adults — adults who still need guidance, but adults, nonetheless. And adults can find a way to do what they want. If it’s important to them, as it is to many of us, they will find the money.
The final fantastical solution was to get the students themselves to shun fraternities. I think that if students truly believed that a fraternity was a violent place, they’d stay away, but the problem is they don’t. Unfortunately, I agree, that fraternity houses and parties can become “hunting grounds” for abusers….as can bars, and other off-campus parties. As a woman, anywhere you go can be a dangerous place. Any man you meet can be a dangerous man. And when you’re at a place with more people, the chance increases.
But in order to make this shift, that an entire fraternity on a certain campus is “bad,” is not only unfair to the members who are “good,” but it’s incredibly difficult to do. The guys build up a rapport with sororities and other organizations on campus. People have friends in the fraternities whose parties they attend. And in college, your social web is so tangled, that it feels unavoidable to end up at certain parties every now and then without going so far as to isolate yourself. Convincing students (hell to convince anyone) to go against the current in such a way that they can eventually change the current is not impossible. But it’s not easy. It’s a process that takes time. It takes years. And by the time the change has been made, you might be vilifying a group of men for the actions of men who are long since graduated.
To read the original Neon Tommy article in its entirety, click here..