Fraternities shouldn’t be blamed for assaults by nonmembers

Ashka Dighe

At RoundUp earlier this year, there was a case of sexual assault reported at the Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammy) house where a girl said she was digitally penetrated while dancing. 

Sammy worked with the police to identify the assailant. Some article headlines about the assault made it seem as though the fraternity itself should be responsible even though the perpetrator was not an active member of the fraternity. Because people were quick to assign blame, false rumors that Sammy was harboring a sexual assailant spread throughout campus.

While a correlation exists between a high rate of sexual assault and fraternity parties, this does not mean active fraternity members commit all of the reported sexual assaults. Entering a fraternity house does not inevitably result in rape, nor will consuming alcohol served in a fraternity house. To generalize all men in Greek life and mislabel them as rapists is insulting to the members of these organizations who fight against rape culture. Simultaneously, assigning blame to the rightful perpetrators can improve safety and increase accountability at fraternity parties. 

Colby Malone, the Delta Sigma Phi president, explained that his fraternity currently enforces alcohol policies to prevent sexual assault and severe inebriation. The fraternity restricts distribution and strictly controls the source of alcohol by serving sealed cans and drinks distributed by a contracted third party, who also ensures everyone is of legal drinking age. This way, everyone can identify the sources and contents of their drinks and decide how much alcohol they want to consume. 

Malone said all isolated spaces, such as bedrooms and closets, stay closed off during parties to prevent access. During larger parties, Delta Sig has sober active members monitor the party. They ask anyone who misbehaves or becomes overly intoxicated to leave. “You can tell when girls are obviously uncomfortable around somebody and that’s when we need to intervene,” Malone said. 

Fraternities have taken steps to prevent alcohol-related assaults, but accountability remains a problem with big parties. Since it’s difficult to keep track of every person that attends a party at a fraternity, Malone said guests who attend frat parties often know they won’t personally be held accountable for their actions. “Their actions will just be blamed on the frat because they’re on our premises,” Malone said. Fraternities should have a way to hold every guest accountable for their individual actions at parties.

A system of direct accountability should be implemented so fraternities are not blamed for the actions of non-affiliated individuals at their parties. This would also create a safer environment with increased accountability assigned to guests.  Since fraternities already require identification to check age at the door, creating a registry of guests using these ID cards would be an easy way for fraternities to keep track of all individuals who enter their house during the party. This policy would make it easier to track down alleged perpetrators if a crime is committed. It would create a sense of accountability to deter predators.

We should not blame entire fraternities for sexual assaults committed by nonmembers in their houses. But we should expect more from our fraternities due to the high rate of sexual assaults reported at their parties. The Interfraternity Council should implement more security policies to reduce the amount of sexual assaults and keep a record of guests who attend their events. Women should not have to be worried about their safety when enjoying a night out with friends. Fraternities have made clear efforts to improve safety at their parties, but they need to implement a system which will hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

Dighe is a Plan II and neuroscience sophomore from Houston.