As protests erupt at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Kansas regarding sexual assault cases and accusations surrounding the fraternities Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa Psi, Greek life is once again in the spotlight, and not in a good way.
Protesters from both universities are calling for a change in the Greek system, and some are even pleading for total abolishment as more and more victims of sexual assault done by fraternity members are coming forward.
The cases and accusations sound like a broken record, waiting for their sorrowful sound to be heard, acknowledged, and fixed. The real question is: Are the cries being ignored? Or is there something being done about the issues that continue to give Greek life a bad rep?
The short answer is: Yes, there are things being done.
The complicated answer is: Not enough.
Adam Koltz, a senior member of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter, explains the short answer in greater detail.
As a vice president of risk management for the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, Koltz says the council alone does a lot to help make and keep Greek life and campus safe for all.
“A lot of what we [the council] do is just making sure that Greek life is safe for ourselves and for new members coming in,” he says. “We want to give everyone the best experience possible, whether that be making sure that chapters follow our rules and bylaws for each chapter and nationally or spreading awareness about things such as mental illness, alcohol consumption, anti-hazing week, stuff like that.”
When it comes to bringing awareness to sexual assault, the council spends a whole month campaigning about the matter, making sure everyone involved in Greek life and on campus know how to stay safe and where to find help if they need it.
The council essentially works on educating each other and those around them while also providing resources to aid in whatever matter they’re campaigning about.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t know what to do or who to talk to when things happen so it’s an opportunity for us [the council] to let students know about their options,” Koltz says about the campaigns.
Aside from the work the council does, Koltz mentions that his fraternity chapter hosts a New Member Education Workshop every year for the sole purpose of informing new members on ways to stay safe and out of trouble.
“We talk about preventive actions and what not to do,” he says. “We’re a tight-knit community so we hold each other accountable. We always have people monitoring situations to make sure nothing bad happens.”
Despite all efforts made, however, bad things still happen.
That’s where the complicated answer comes in, which Morgan Rusler, junior member of MNSU’s Alpha Sigma Alpha chapter and one of the Vice Presidents of Risk Management for the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council, explains.
“Just because it doesn’t make the headlines doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” she says. “No matter what college statistics you’re looking at, the numbers won’t be accurate because not everything gets reported.”
According to Rusler, when sexual assault occurs within the Greek community at MNSU, it’s handled internally and rarely gets heard by the general campus community because, most often, the incidents occur off-campus and the University isn’t obligated to report on them.
“Privacy gets to be a big issue as well,” she says. “But regardless, I think more needs to be done by the University and Greek life everywhere to prevent this issue because, in my mind, there’s no legitimate excuse for it. It’s a big problem and there should be more done to solve it.”
Rusler doesn’t claim to have any “magical answers” up her sleeve, but she does propose a solution she suspects would be an unpopular one among her peers but could add an extra incentive to do more to prevent sexual assault within Greek life.
“Maybe chapters should be held reliable,” she says. “But at the same time, the action of one person does not reflect the actions of an entire group or organization and I think that’s where Greek life gets such a bad rep, because we see it happen at one place and then all of a sudden, we’re all to blame.”
To offer another perspective, Rusler adds that when students at MNSU receive alerts on their phones about sexual assault happening in one of the dorms, students don’t automatically assume that everyone in the dorms is capable of the same actions. However, when it comes to Greek life, those assumptions are made almost instantly.
“The stereotypes that come with Greek life make it so much harder to handle situations that do happen because we have to handle them delicately in order preserve our image while also making sure the problem gets taken care of the way it deserves,” she says.
Rusler also believes that Greek life at MNSU should not be the only organization held responsible for advocating against sexual assault and educating others on the matter in order to prevent it from happening.
She strongly advocates for a mutual understanding between the University and organizations that everyone plays a role in the prevention of sexual assault.
“I think that if we see more done by the University, the efforts will flow into Greek life and other organizations as well,” Rusler says.
As the old saying goes, lead by example.
“If the University takes a stricter stance on sexual assault, then the organizations on campus will as well,” she says. “Just because we don’t hear about it happening here as much doesn’t mean they don’t or never will, and I think the school needs to be better equipped to handle the situations and help the victims in a proper manner.”
In hopes of limiting the number of victims down to zero, Rusler advises students to keep their phones fully charged when going out, to never leave their drinks unattended, use the buddy system, and always have at least one person they can call or text if anything goes wrong.
Koltz offers similar advice but emphasizes the importance of being aware of your surroundings.
“If you see or hear anything that makes you uncomfortable, leave immediately,” he says.
In the event that someone does find themselves a victim of sexual assault, on-campus resources such as the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX, Women’s Center, University Security, and counseling opportunities are available. More information and ways to contact these resources can be found on mnsu.edu/eotitleix/titleix.
The most important resource you have is your voice, so use it to speak out against sexual assault, harassment, or any form of abuse you see done to others or yourself.
Aside from it all, neither Rusler nor Koltz believe Greek life deserves the reputation that precedes it but do acknowledge the flaws in the system.
“Certain individuals give Greek life a bad rep and so then of course it reflects badly on all of us,” Rusler says. “But if you compare the stereotypes to our Greek life here, it’s so different.”
Koltz agrees with his counterpart that the stereotypes that surround Greek life don’t align with the reality of the one here at MNSU. However, he also doesn’t shy away from the reality of Greek life elsewhere.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened,” Koltz says about the on-going sexual assault cases and accusations at NU and KU. “These things really shouldn’t happen and it’s extremely unacceptable. I think it’s a good thing for students to speak out because they need to be heard.”