A sexual assault epidemic has come upon the college campus, and the focus of the problem has shifted to players in the Greek system: fraternities. From the suspension of Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi at Brown University due to cases of sexual assault, to the ‘”rapebait” email from a member of Phi Kappa Tau at Georgia Tech, all the way to Sigma Alpha Epsilon having the slogan “sexual assault expected,” the evidence against fraternities in sexual assault cases is more than just a coincidence.
The question of whether fraternities are the main cause of sexual assault on college campuses has been a targeted source of controversy in the recent boom in conversation about sexual assault. Justice Gaines, a junior and member of Brown University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, stated in an article from the New York Times that, “While fraternities and Greek life can definitely play a role in the problem of sexual assault, it’s a mistake to focus on a few campus organizations at the expense of others,” since, “Some perpetrators are not part of Greek life.”
While they may not be the sole cause of increasing sexual assault on college campuses, many argue that fraternities create the environment that is conducive to sexual assault. Killian Womack, a freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a brother in Phi Kappa Psi, has had first-hand experience with the environment fraternities create. “Parties that are less regulated usually have more liquor, meaning faster and higher rates of intoxication,” states Womack regarding the fraternity party environment. Could a solution to this dangerous environment be stricter regulations on parties? Womack states that regulations are already fairly strict on regulated parties, with required IFC party-walkthroughs, as well as on site EMTs.
With the environment of fraternity parties already being regulated, another possible cause of sexual assault in fraternities, is that the individuals themselves are being influenced by mass mindsets within the fraternities. A study by Foubert and Newberry showed that men who join a fraternity are three times more likely to commit rape than their non-affiliated peers. Womack states that this correlation could be due to the fact that in many cases, “Fraternties instill attitudes in their members that are hostile or negative, such as, arrogance, elitism, and racism.” Although it may be the individual committing the actual crime itself, from Womack’s personal experiences, he believes that, “The social institution of Greek life contributes to the rationalization of sexual assault.”
The greater reasoning behind sexual assault in fraternities could, in the end, be linked to the sociological culture of the fraternity. Peggy R. Sandy, a University of Pennsylvania sociologist who has done much of her work with rape in fraternities, stated in article by Newsweek that, “These so-called brotherhoods often have a “superior status” because they are older and more numerous than sororities, which rarely hold parties.” Killian Womack’s experience in being involved in the fraternal system supports this notion of a mindset of superiority. “The presence of money, as many fraternities and their members are wealthy, in addition to the inflamed sense of self-importance, causes many fraternity members to hold a mindset of ‘I can get away with whatever I want,'” states Womack.
This mindset is potentially the most explosive cause of sexual assault on college campuses, especially in fraternities. Many solutions to this issue have been proposed such as bans and restrictions, but from the inside, freshman Killian Womack believes that these restrictions are, “short-term fixes for a larger institutional problem that can only be resolved through a societal shift in attitude. This shift will come about through the spreading of alertness, as well as the replacement of arrogance and exclusivity with humility, diversity, and openness.”