All across the country fraternities are being disbanded or suspended for violent incidences or other criminal activities, proving it harder to stay in good standing at their host universities nonetheless form new chapters elsewhere. A group of Southern Oregon University students attempting to form a Kappa Sigma chapter on campus felt pressure from concerned students Wednesday night as they spoke out against the organization at the Student Greek Life forum.
“When I was looking at SOU I was actually really happy to see that there was no Greek life. There are a lot of schools that have it and it’s very divisive,” said Erica Lautrup, a staff member at SOU’s Women’s Resource Center. Lautrup not only voiced her opinion to the crowd of more than 50 students, but quoted research gathered by John Foubert from the University of Oklahoma, stating that men involved in fraternities are three times more likely to rape than other male college students. Another study published by Foubert in 2007, however, showed that fraternity men who had seen a rape prevention program at the beginning of the academic year “were significantly less likely to commit a sexually coercive act.”
“I understand that Greek life has a bad reputation,” said Michael Archer, grand master of the Kappa Sigma colony on campus. “I ask that you judge the individual and not the organization. It’s an attack on us to say that we’re all rapists, or we’re all sexist.”
“We have a mandatory safety manager,” said Seamus O’leary another member of the prospective fraternity. He assured those in opposition of the organization that “things like that won’t go unseen or unpunished.”
Still some were unwilling to take this as reassurance that sexual assault would not be an issue.
“I think frats are going against the values that SOU stands for,” said Demitra Olague also a staff member of SOU’s women resource center who questioned how exactly Kappa Sigma would hold their members accountable for sexual assault.
“The risks greek life could pose to the SOU campus are not worth the camaraderie that may arise,” said SOU student Hannah VanBrunt in an open letter to the Siskiyou. Vanbrunt challenged the exclusionary nature of greek life as well stating that it is “in direct conflict with SOU’s mission statement and commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Student’s concerns are not unvetted. According to reports compiled by Bloomberg, in the spring of 2015 alone 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 U.S. colleges were “shut down, suspended or otherwise punished after alleged offenses including excessive partying, hazing, racism, and sexual assault.”
“At this point, we haven’t done anything wrong,” stated Kappa Sigma member Tony Suverkropp who is confident that the group will be able to establish itself as a recognized fraternity on campus by fall of next year. With 40 members currently involved, the group only qualifies as a colony and must reach 65 members as well as fulfill other requirements in order to become an official Kappa Sigma chapter. According to Suverkropp, these guidelines, set and followed by Kappa Sigma fraternities nationwide, involve working with the university and it’s resource centers to schedule and attend mandatory seminars including a domestic violence and sexual assault seminar.
Taking student opinions into consideration, the university sent out a campus-wide survey on Thursday, asking recipients how they felt about the return of Greek life. Most questions related to the exclusionary principles of fraternities and sororities requiring students to rank how they felt it would affect overall campus life. Results from this survey are expected to be compiled sometime next week.
“At the end of the day it’s about meeting people and making friends,” said ASSOU senator Colin Davis. “We’re being exclusive by not allowing them to be a group in the first place.”