Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Sigma Chi-hosted Greek Life discussion focuses on sexual assault

Whitman fraternity Sigma Chi held an open forum on Greek Life in Olin Hall on the night of Tuesday, March 10. The event, intended originally as a panel-based discussion touching on a variety of issues facing the Greek community, shifted due to low turnout to a largely crowd-sourced discussion focused predominantly on issues of sexual assault prevention and prosecution.

Junior Nick Hochfeld, who organized the event, originally conceived the forum as a discussion of the Greek system through the lens of Sigma Chi members. Six panelists answered questions and participated in discussion, all of which were moderated by junior Allison Kelly. After some delays and debates over the location and format of the event, Hochfeld moved it from Sigma Chi’s house to Maxey Hall and finally to Olin Hall. He also elected to preserve the event’s original format, with the explicit caveat that the Sigs on the panel intended to speak only as Sigs, and not as representatives of the Greek system as a whole.

“We realized that something all-encompassing, with all of Greek life and with independent representatives, too, would just not be feasible right now,” said Hochfeld the day before the event. “This is meant to be the start of something, rather than the end-all, be-all. We wanted to inspire others, both Greeks and independents, to have their own discussions and to possibly host more events like this, and maybe eventually … host a bigger one, which I would love to see happen.”

While the event was in large part precipitated by the response to an opinion piece on the Greek system by junior Katy Wills in Issue 5 of The Pioneer, Hochfeld says he had already been looking for a way to foster discussion of Greek life.

“There are very different sects at this school … Greek life is just one of many spheres. And I feel like they don’t communicate well enough,” said Hochfeld. “[The event] was something I had wanted to do for a while, and this was a good time to do it.”

Initial predictions for attendance (based on the event’s Facebook page) sat at around 100, but actual attendance was much lower, with just over 20 attendees, most with Greek affiliations. As a result, the 90-minute event adopted the format of a discussion rather than a question-and-answer session.

In the first 15 minutes of discussion, attendees and panelists worked over the costs and benefits of national affiliation for Greek organizations before the conversation turned to sexual assault, where it stayed for the remainder of the night.

“I think that was kind of the impression that I had going in about what we were going to talk about,” said junior Meredith Ruff, because “one of the biggest problems that the Greek system is facing –– even though it’s all of campus that is really involved in this, and everyone is implicated in this –– is the issue of alcohol and sexual assault.”

The discussion ranged from inquiry into Sigma Chi’s role in reporting and disciplining members accused of sexual assault to brainstorming ways for both men’s and women’s fraternities to proactively combat rape culture at Greek functions.

“Everyone wants to improve the system,” said junior Katie Gillespie. “I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks that their system can’t be improved. I don’t think there’s any fraternity or sorority on campus who isn’t willing to hear ideas about how to change, and I think opening that dialogue and making people feel comfortable recommending these strategies is really great.”

While Hochfeld hopes that the event will inspire others like it, he has no plans to organize another such discussion.

“I doubt I would take the reins on something like this again, just because it was pretty stressful,” said Hochfeld. “I would love to be involved in something similar to this, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”



Members of Sigma Chi speak at the Greek Meeting. Photo by Anna von Clemm.
Members of Sigma Chi speak at the Greek Meeting. Photo by Anna von Clemm.
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