With fraternities and campus sexual climates under scrutiny nationwide, Sigma Phi Epsilon and the Sexual Literacy Forum are in the preliminary stages of designing a program dedicated to promoting a healthier sexual climate at fraternities.
The initiative, which will target the fraternity’s new members, is set to begin this semester. The collaboration will involve meetings between SeLF facilitators and small groups of new SigEp members, and discussions will focus on safe sexual environments in Greek life.
“The goal is to be a leader in some way among Greek life in terms of these issues on campus,” Adam Erickson ’17 said. “There are certain things in the Greek community that lead us toward higher risks.”
SeLF Student Organization Outreach Coordinator Halsey Robertson ’17 said that she was working with Erickson to write up a workshop designed specifically for SigEp.
The collaboration comes in the midst of a wide-ranging national debate about misconduct on college campuses. Today, Dartmouth announced that the school would ban all hard alcohol on campus as a means to reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus. The Dartmouth administration also warned fraternities that stiff penalties would be incurred if they did not reform their behavior.
The SigEp/SeLF collaboration is spearheaded by Erickson, a member of both the executive boards of both organizations. He said he was inspired to follow through with the project after SigEp participated in the Yale College Council’s “It’s On Us, Yale,” a campaign launched earlier this year to prevent sexual assault on campus.
SigEp president Tim Baker ’16 declined to comment on the program.
Though the program is still in its preliminary stage, it is intended to run as a course for the fraternity’s new members that covers a variety of topics related to safety, sexual assault and women’s issues.
“We plan to have at least one or two workshops with all their new members about creating a healthy sexual climate at SigEp and anywhere else on campus,” Robertson said.
Erickson said the sessions will be designed to be open-ended and reflective, rather than instructional.
Robertson added that while groups like the Community Consent Educators have specific objectives for their sessions, SeLF runs more as a discussion based on reflection and sharing experiences.
“There’s not one specific thing to agree about; the agreement [between SigEp members] basically is just that the conversation needs to be had,” Erickson said. “Members might have differing opinions about how best to make a safe space and people might disagree with them. SigEp is a very diverse fraternity so the goal of the conversations is not to drill certain points but to open up the conversation so that there are different perspectives.”
SeLF Co-Director Jez Marston ’15 said that fraternities have an obligation to ensure that they are creating environments of respect, but sexual assault happens in many different areas of the Yale community.
Laura Kellman ’15, head coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, added that while there is certainly a problem with sexual assault on campus, this problem is not unique to fraternities.
“SigEp should be commended for taking active steps on this issue,” Kellman said. “We would like to see more student groups taking initiative like this to improve their communities.”
However, SeLF board member Amelia Nierenberg ’18 said she believes such an initiative should simply be expected, rather than congratulated.
“SigEp should hypothetically be commended, but as a sexually active woman on this campus, I feel like a sex-positive place is something that I deserve,” Nierenberg said. “It’s appreciated that they’re trying, but it shouldn’t have to be.”
Alpha Delta Phi president Connor Durkin ’16 said his fraternity is not pursuing any similar initiatives.
Marston said the main challenge for implementing more changes in the Greek community is that organizations can choose the extent to which they want to focus on the issue of sexual assault.
Despite the initial meeting between SeLF and 10 members of SigEp’s executive board, Erickson said the fraternity has not yet had a broader session for members outside of the executive board.
“Nothing about the [meeting with the executive board] was about blaming them for anything, or about reprimanding them,” Robertson said. “All frats should be doing some of this.”