For many students, education on the issue of sexual assault, coordinated by Communication and Consent Educators, ends after sophomore year. But as their pledge processes have unfolded this spring, some fraternities have requested additional workshops from the CCEs, the Office of Gender and Campus Culture or Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale for new members of the sessions.
Almost all fraternities at Yale require additional training on sexual assault prevention for their members, though the type of intervention and the frequency vary from group to group. Last month, Delta Kappa Epsilon — which has been under fire recently in light of allegations of misconduct against several fraternity members — announced that new members will be required to attend workshops with groups including the CCEs, USAY and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative, as well as to view educational material on the issue of sexual assault. The announcement came in a report released this semester that included other reforms aimed at creating a safer environment at DKE.
“A member’s completion of our pledging process is conditional on his completion of these workshops,” the report states. “We want to continue those conversations to ensure that all new members clearly understand the values and expectations inherent in being a member both of DKE and of the greater Yale community.”
While these workshops are now mandatory for pledges, DKE has organized workshops with USAY for the past three years, according to USAY co-founder Helen Price ’18. Since USAY began administering workshops in 2016, DKE, LEO, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Nu and Zeta Psi have requested and attended workshops each year. Members of Alpha Epsilon Pi also participated in the workshop in 2016 and have run the workshop themselves since then, Price said.
The University does not mandate training on sexual assault for any Yale student group that is not officially registered as a student organization, according to Associate Vice President of Student Life Burgwell Howard. Howard added that while “most of our fraternities and some of our sororities fall into this category,” many still choose to arrange training sessions for members.
Many fraternities work with the CCEs on sexual assault, bystander intervention, rush dynamics and training for new members, according to Elizabeth Larsen ’15, a student affairs associate at the Office of Gender and Campus Culture and Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative. Larsen did not specify which fraternities require meetings with CCEs, but said that CCEs work with “any student organization interested in promoting a more positive climate within their group.”
The USAY workshop is geared toward all-male organizations and takes a different approach from CCE workshops, Price said. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their own masculinity and socialization, and also practice bystander intervention and addressing sexually disrespectful comments. Price added that while most Greek national organizations require new members to complete some sort of anti-sexual assault training, the programs are often conducted online, rendering them ineffective.
All new members of LEO are required to attend a USAY workshop during their first semester, and the fraternity coordinates a CCE workshop for members once a year, according to LEO President Ian Reid ’19. Members of SigEp must also attend a workshop with the CCEs and USAY each spring.
“[SigEp] stands strongly against sexual assault and educates members through several methods to create a safe and welcoming environment for brothers and guests,” said Andrew Parrish, strategic communications director for Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national organization.
Lauck Walton, executive director of Zeta Psi’s national organization, said all new Zeta members are required to complete an online course that covers a “variety of risk management issues from alcohol misuse, hazing and sexual misconduct prevention.”
Sigma Nu President Kevin Bendesky ’19, who writes a sports column for the News, and AEPi President Robert Proner ’19 declined to comment on what training is required of their members. Leadership of Alpha Delta Phi, Chi Psi, DKE, SigEp, Sigma Chi and Zeta did not respond to requests for comment.
While workshops and online trainings are commonly used to train students on the issue of sexual assault, three researchers interviewed by the News said that sexual assault prevention programs have had limited success.
Determining a program’s effectiveness at preventing sexual misconduct is challenging because very few sexual assaults are reported at all, according to William O’Donohue, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who studies sexual violence prevention programs on college campuses. An effective program may also lead to more reporting of sexual assault, so the number of reported cases could also increase even if a prevention program is working and the incidence of assault has decreased. As a result, researchers are still uncertain about what makes a program effective at preventing sexual assault, O’Donohue said.
“Essentially if you want the outcome … to be actual reductions in rape, we don’t have any evidence that any program does that,” O’Donohue said.
Researchers have mixed opinions on what types of interventions are most effective in preventing sexual assault. Rory Newlands, a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno who studied prevention programs with O’Donohue, said interventions that target binge drinking “offer the most hope” as the vast majority of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol. Anne Kirkner, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pointed to expanded bystander intervention programs that also break down harmful gender roles and stereotypes as the most promising type of intervention. She said peer-led programs, like the USAY and CCE workshops, are also “highly advantageous,” especially if the peers are viewed as leaders within their groups.
O’Donohue, however, expressed doubt that many cases of sexual assault can be prevented by bystanders, as assaults often occur when only two people are present.
Still, researchers agreed that in order to decrease the incidence of sexual assault, mandatory training is only the first step. Kirkner said an effective program should consist of a minimum of seven sessions, and online training is most effective when paired with an in-person, group component.
“There are no easy fixes for deep cultural change,” Kirkner said. “So simply providing a one-time training is the least effective method of prevention and would not even meet the definition of primary prevention according to many state funding agencies.”
While the USAY workshops have been received well by fraternities, Price said that mandatory training must be “backed up by fraternity leadership and their national organizations.” Earlier this semester, a review of DKE’s sexual climate by the Yale chapter’s national organization found no evidence of a culture of sexual hostility or sexual harassment. The fraternity appears not to have interviewed a single woman during the review.
“Workshops aren’t going to do anything on their own. We have to have really consistent culture change,” Price said. “And ultimately, it doesn’t seem like DKE’s national organization is very committed to that.”
Will McGrew ’18, a co-founder of Engender and member of SigEp, said that while workshops with USAY and the CCEs are valuable to fraternities, they are only a “temporary tool” in combating sexual assault, since fraternity leaders must voluntarily request the training.
“It’s absurd that it falls on the activists to force the fraternities to do this … really all student groups should have a mandate from the administration to conduct these types of trainings,” McGrew said. “It shouldn’t fall on people like [Helen Price] to fill in the gaps.”
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