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Decreasing Sexual Assault: Should Sororities Host Parties Too?

By Amy Brown
21 Jan 2015

Officials at Brown University have ruled that the fraternities Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi “created environments that facilitated sexual misconduct” at fraternity parties. Brown University isn’t the first college where stories of sexual assault at fraternity parties have made national news. There was the situation with the Rolling Stone University of Virgina incident which resulted in a ban on fraternities until January 9. Colombia University student Emma Sulkowicz, famous for carrying her mattress around until her rapist is expelled, attended President Obama’s State of the Union on January 20.  With sexual assault being a very real fear for students nationwide, some sororities have decided that they should host their own parties.

It’s been a long-standing tradition that students attend parties at fraternities, and sororities remain dry. Although this is often explained by old, outdated laws that declare houses with more than four women living in them that possess alcohol “brothels,” it is usually an insurance issue. Sororities are able to pay $25 or $50 in insurance per member instead of the roughly $160 paid per fratenity member due to the increased risk presented by alcoholic frat parties. No parties also means a calmer living experience. However, would allowing sororities to host parties reduce the chances of sexual assault at parties?

Allowing parties would decrease the dependence felt by students who want to attend parties, but have no options besides fraternities, which could be dangerous. If sororities hosted, they would have more power in the partying situation – they know the layout of the house; they can retreat to off-limits areas if a situation arises they need to get away from; they can monitor the punch more diligently because they would make it themselves.  Women have said they would feel safer in sorority-hosted parties than they currently do at fraternity parties. However, sorority houses are not designed to accommodate such parties in the way that fraternities are, often hosting higher-quality decorations and layouts not conducive to hosting large parties. Sororities without national affiliation currently host parties, and a member of Sigma Delta at Dartmouth says women frequently express feeling more safe at these parties. They can come to female hosts that will remove any dangerous situation, instead of potentially being blown off or feeling uncomfortable asking a male host to deal with one of his own fraternity brothers. Many have expressed that, the ability of fraternities to host parties establishes a power dynamic on campus that can be potentially dangerous, and frankly, is outdated.

Insurance companies also do not always want to assume the liability presented, so it could be complicated for sororities to maintain their insurance if they open their doors to alcohol. Some experts say that sororities hosting parties will not significantly affect sexual assault statistics, although others say they could decrease them. Men and genderqueer students are also still vulnerable to sexual assault with sororities hosting parties instead of anti-rape policies being instated and actually enforced. Additionally, would allowing more places with access to alcohol stop the problem more effectively than clamping down on drinking and establishing stricter policies? Should sororities be allowed to host parties from a equality standpoint? Will allowing sorority parties do anything to reduce sexual assault on campuses?

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
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