Earlier this term, we, as the Diversity Initiative for Greek Life, hosted an event titled Forum on Party Culture, where we held a panel consisting of the LU fraternity leadership representatives. While we acknowledge that toxic party culture permeates all of campus — not just fraternity spaces — the idea for this event came from within fraternities and can be seen as a stepping stone for greater conversations moving forward. The event sprung from a desire to increase accountability, transparency on current fraternity policies, and receive feedback from campus at-large on ways in which parties currently feel safe and unsafe.
This event was facilitated by SAASHA and questions were received anonymously through a google form in order to help frame discussion during the event. We structured the event to give a platform to address student concerns related to fraternity party culture, which could then be used to inform future change. We have since met with the SAASHA facilitators, members of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), and other fraternity leadership to discuss concrete policy changes that can be made, as well as plans of action for their implementation.
Recognizing the bureaucratic nature of policy change, it is understood that campus climate will not experience a “quick fix” or offer a clear end to the work that needs to be done. However, we would like to introduce these upcoming changes as a way to take accountability for the event and sustain campus dialogue. From the questions, criticism, and feedback voiced at the forum, detailed notes revealed three overarching issues that (IFC) will prioritize in proposed policy changes.
The first issue that IFC at Lawrence will focus on will be the position of “Six Men”. Six Men constitute six sober men from the fraternity hosting the party that are meant to observe and maintain a safe and secure party environment. In addition, they are supposed to play an active role in recognizing and intervening in unsafe or suspicious scenarios. Six Men have not consistently and successfully fulfilled these responsibilities, indicating a need for change. Fraternities are currently working to adopt clearer consequences in their respective chapter bylaws, which would implement social probation for a Six Man who fails to meet the established position requirements while on duty. This social probation consequence will be standardized across fraternities and will prevent the member from attending the next three fraternity social events, which will be described as mixers, formals, parties, bondings, retreats, and Greek Week events. If there is another policy breach, this consequence will be compounded to a suspension from six social events. Delta Tau Delta has recently started using this policy, which President Andrew Lauber says has “proven effective.” Phi Kappa Tau member John Newhall agrees that, in cases like these where safety is at stake, “punishment is just the right thing to do” in order to enforce proper protocol.
IFC is also beginning to design a curriculum for a Six Men training, which will be collaborated on with, reviewed by, and administered by a qualified party. There is ongoing discussion about student groups, Campus Life staff, and third-party facilitators who might be able to help fill this role. The training will focus on how to handle people who are severely intoxicated, recognize risky behavior, and intervene in potentially dangerous situations. It will also address effective ways to confront peers and members of one’s own fraternity who may not be upholding agreed-upon social codes of conduct. This Six Men training will be a project for this coming Fall Term, where fraternity leadership and appropriate campus resources will begin collaboration on this initiative to be administered in the winter.
The second issue that IFC will focus on is sexual misconduct policies. Because a standard policy does not currently exist, all fraternities have agreed to implement a zero-tolerance policy in their respective chapters. A bylaw will also be added to IFC regulations, requiring all Lawrence fraternities to have such a policy but will leave the style of writing up to each chapter. Information on the chapters’ policies will be added to their New Member forms and education. They are also working toward getting clearance to have a Title IX information release form in which “red flags” on potential new members will be disclosed to fraternity leadership. “Red flags” refer to any indication that the individual might have broken the Lawrence University Sexual Misconduct Policy, as determined by Title IX. In such circumstances, they will not be offered a bid to join the fraternity.
The third issue that chapters will focus on is the consumption of substances within their spaces. Sigma Phi Epsilon is implementing a substance-free housing policy, which is being required of all other Sigma Phi Epsilon chapters across the country by their Nationals. Beta Theta Pi’s Nationals will be voting on a similar substance-free housing policy this summer. These policies include consequences of fines, social probation and, upon third offense, expulsion from the chapter. Each chapter implementing these policies will enforce them within their respective chapter as well as encourage the campus to respect these policies when opening up spaces for public events. Chapter members recognize that such policies won’t solve the problem entirely, especially because non-members who attend fraternities parties can’t be held accountable the same way as members. SigEp member Julien Riviere stated, “People are still going to bring in alcohol, but we can do our best to take it away. If we see Six Men not taking it away, that’s when they face social probation. If individuals are not following through on our rules, we at least have procedures to follow through on.” There is hope that emphasis on having a substance-free space will lead to changes in behavior and climate for these Lawrence chapters, as well as the party culture that the rest of campus engages in within these spaces.
This event was just the beginning of what will hopefully be a larger discussion and campus-wide effort to ensure healthier partying practices and increase accountability among all members of the Lawrence community. Fraternity life is only one player in party dynamics on campus and it seems like most students would agree that a similar forum for all group-housing would also be meaningful. Mallory Bryan from SAASHA commented, “These changes are coming into play… but these problems are still going to persist, just in different ways and we need to think about how we’re going to manage that.” We believe the results of this event prove that students are capable of having these difficult conversations and hope that Greek organizations continue to recognize and actively confront the impacts they are having in the Lawrence community. If you wish to continue this conversation with Greek Life or have further suggestions, please contact the current President of IFC Max Wolnak (Beta Theta Pi).
For more information about the Diversity Initiative for Greek Life, please feel free to contact next year’s co-chairs: Lia Eldridge (Delta Gamma), Navin Rambharose (Fall proxy, Sigma Phi Epsilon)/ Harry Rivas (Sigma Phi Epsilon).