On Sunday, May 10, the nine members of Lawrence University Community Council’s Formal Group Housing Committee (FGHC) awarded the Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) fraternity with 203 N. Union Street, currently Artistic Expression House. Members of our community have been quick to express their concerns regarding this situation; these concerns arise primarily from SigEp’s alleged history of sexual violence and general misbehavior.
Whether or not assaults and other incidents have been formally reported to administration, there is no question that, when they had their own house on the Quad, SigEp was commonly regarded as a somewhat unsafe space for women.
The Campus Life mission statement describes as two of their goals, “promoting respect [and] empowering students to affect their community.” How can we say that SigEp historically has promoted respect if they earned a reputation for personally destructive behavior?
They responded to that reputation this year with events such as “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” an insincere, sexist, semi-drag publicity stunt. As many members of the Lawrence community see it, the event served more as a problematic tactic for earning a house than as an opportunity for “empowering students to affect their community.”
Student residences must live up to Campus Life’s mission statement and provide at least some semblance of safety to meet our housing system’s supposed standards. Because SigEp does not fully meet those criteria, at least in my eyes, it is my opinion that SigEp should not have received a house.
Nonetheless, I respect the members of FGHC, I respect certain individual members of SigEp and I love dearly Lawrence’s group housing system. I have no choice, therefore, but to be deeply hopeful that SigEp’s time in 203 N. Union Street will actually be safe and productive. With any luck, the FGHC will have no need to regret their decision and the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon will bring about a profound cultural shift within their fraternity.