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Higher Education

Ending Sexual Assault: The Fraternity Question

By Conner Gordon
24 Sep 2014

Much has been said of the markedly high rates of sexual assaults on college campuses. While the conversations all point to different solutions to the problem, many revolve around the same source: the disproportionate amount of sexual assaults committed within fraternities.

With a recent spate of fraternity sexual assault incidents making headlines, columnists like Jessica Valenti have looked to the root of the issue. In her op-ed in The Guardian, Valenti argues that, while bystander intervention and sexual assault prevention programs are a positive step, the fraternity system presents systemic risks – risks that are becoming increasingly unacceptable to students, faculty and staff. While acknowledging that “not all fraternities are hunting grounds for rapists and not all men who join frats (or varsity sports teams) are predators,” Valenti argues that:

These are not anomalies or bad apples: numerous studies have found that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to rape, that women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women, and that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in four years away at school.

Several schools seem to be acting on this message. Along with increased use of bystander intervention programs, institutions across the country are considering more sweeping changes.

For Wesleyan – home of the “rape factory” frat – school administrators decided that means mandating that women be admitted to fraternities. The school announced this week that all frats must go co-ed within the next three years.

Is it indeed time, then, to consider the possibility of banning fraternities from college campuses? At DePauw, the response would likely be mixed. On such a strongly greek campus, many students would argue that greek life is an important part of the college experience: that it helps solidify connections with friends during college, as well as provides connections with alumni. But DePauw is not exempt from the epidemic of sexual assault, especially in the greek system, and there would be many who argue that systemic change must take place to protect others and make campus a safer place.

So what’s your take? Are fraternities an inherently broken system, as Valenti suggests? What can we do to change this system, and does it mean the end of fraternities?

Image credit: I Fill You Up by GasparSavage (CC No Derivative Works 3.0)

Conner was a Graduate Fellow at the Prindle Institute from 2016-2018. Conner's writing focuses on memory, politics and culture. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Oregon.
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