Confronting sexual misconduct in Greek life and beyond

Sanika Nayak, Safa Michigan, and Hairuo Yi

Editors Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 26 flipbook. 

Content Warning: Discussions of sexual violence

Conversations about sexual misconduct on campus aren’t new — we’ve been reckoning with a lack of accountability and safety for years. Too often, survivors aren’t given the support they need and perpetrators remain unaffected without consequences. Interfraternity and Panhellenic Greek life is often a hotbed for sexual harassment and assault; it’s an environment where members aren’t always held accountable for their actions while the University turns a blind eye. But this isn’t limited to Greek life alone; misconduct occurs across many spaces, even the ones we’ve been conditioned to believe are harmless. 

We chose to pursue this project in light of recent national conversations surrounding rape culture in Greek life. We began with the intention to focus solely on toxic behavior within Interfraternity Greek life. However, we quickly realized that campus conversations about sexual misconduct often fail to acknowledge that sexual violence is also prevalent in non-Greek student organizations like spirit groups and social groups. While it’s important and necessary to question the culture of sororities and fraternities, it’s equally important to confront the fact that other “esteemed” organizations on campus are just as guilty. Accusations and allegations exist against spirit groups and other social organizations as well, and they have escaped culpability for too long. 

We’ve seen incidents inspire outrage on our campus, and we encourage you to advocate for change in addition to retweeting and sharing on social media. Sexual misconduct can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. However, survivors of color, transgender and non-binary survivors are forced to navigate unique systems of oppression as they heal and pursue justice. Listen to survivors and get involved with the work of student activists. Demand that the University and other entities do more. Be passionate about calling out misconduct in your everyday spheres.

To survivors, we want to say that we see you, and we believe you. To those working to advocate for survivors on our campus and dismantle systems of sexual violence, thank you. To all students on our campus: engage in conversations about accountability, even (and especially) if that means challenging the spaces you yourself are a part of. 

In this forum project:

Sara Jane Ross, a survivor and advocate, emphasizes the lack of accountability in social organizations and spirit organizations outside of Greek life. 

Vanessa Sayroo, president-elect of Not On My Campus, a student organization dedicated to ending campus sexual assault, calls on the University and orgs to provide more resources for survivors, mandate education and hold perpetrators accountable.

The UT Student Government Women’s Resource Agency highlights educational prevention resources and advocates for justice for survivors through University-led measures for Greek life accountability. 

Kiandra Benson and Maya Gordon, confidential advocates in Student Emergency Services, present warning signs and resources for students facing interpersonal violence. 

While you look through the perspectives of our contributors, we ask you to consider the following questions:

How can the University take responsibility to provide education and consequences to Greek life and similar social organizations?

How can Greek life and beyond better hold their peers accountable and advocate for survivors?

What can non-Greek social and spirit organizations guilty of perpetuating sexual violence do to address the deep-rooted issues present in their organizations?

Are there institutional issues with the foundations of Greek life that can’t be repaired? Should we continue to uphold these systems on our campus?

How do we create a culture of accountability for organizations notorious for sexual misconduct? Should these organizations even be allowed to exist as they do without consequence?

The forum projects team consists of forum editors Safa Michigan, Hairuo Yi, and editor-in-chief Sanika Nayak.