Tuesday, April 28, 2015

IFC Leadership's Thoughts on Rape Culture

            As a Lehigh Greek Community, we understand the power that we have as Greek students on our campus. Recently, the issue of rape culture has been discussed and talked about by many different organizations around campus, most recently the Brown and White. This post was written because we wanted to let our peers know what we are doing, and what we have been doing, to make sure that Lehigh University is a safe and welcoming community for all.
            The issue of rape culture is something that college campuses face nationally, and we at Lehigh are no exception. Rape culture is something that we as an Interfraternity Council (IFC) and as a larger Greek community have started to talk about and address because we all realize the significance that its presence has on a national scale. One of our goals is to always take proactive measures addressing national issues in order to improve our community here at Lehigh.
            One of the ways we are working towards addressing the issue is by revamping our formal recruitment process. At the beginning of the fall semester 2015, the IFC implemented a new recruitment process and recruitment bylaws that outlined a more structured formal recruitment than we have had in years.  Part of this new recruitment plan is the implementation of a series of three educational lectures that are required for Potential New Members (PNMs) to attend before they will be allowed to join an IFC chapter. These educational lectures are intended to teach PNMs about what is expected of them as part of our IFC community. The new recruitment plan also lays out set guidelines for what recruitment events a chapter can and can not have. We have added language to our bylaws to address this issue, specifically targeting the issue of women and the role they play in recruitment events. Strip clubs and any recruitment events where women are the primary focus of entertainment are not permitted by these new guidelines. In addition, recruitment in the past was heavily focused on alcohol and we put practices into effect this past year in order to shift the focus away from it. We are enforcing these rules and we are holding the members of the IFC accountable for their actions.
            Looking towards the future, the IFC and the Panhellenic Council will be working on an initiative together to continue to educate the Greek community about these issues that are present on our campus like offensive party themes, degrading language, and inappropriate recruitment texts. This initiative will be a series of talks about how these inappropriate recruitment texts, degrading language, and offensive party themes affect the women in our community and how these ideas and practices promote the rape culture here on campus. Education about the issue and showing how these actions actually affect people in our community is the best way to make a lasting impact on the members of the Greek and Lehigh community as a whole. In addition to these talks, IFC worked closely with the Panhellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Council, and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs on Campus Event Policy changes last year, which highlighted the need to end inappropriate themed parties.
            Addressing the rape culture on both a national and local level is something that the Lehigh Greek community has banned together on to fix. It has been a new initiative of all three of the Greek councils, to meet once a month and have All Greek Council meetings. At these council meetings, students of the Greek community lead conversations about rape culture, the social system, and the Greek culture here at Lehigh. One of the most extensive meetings we had was a meeting in the Spring of 2014 about the pressure felt by sorority women when provocatively themed parties are had, and how these provocative themes are a precursor to a culture that allows violence towards women. This talk was one of the talks in a series of many which lead to the eventual crack-down on offensive themes. These meetings help to promote Greek unity and show the idea that we are one Lehigh community and we need to work together on fixing these problems. Along with this, the IFC, Panhellenic Council, and Multicultural Greek Council are in support of the OFSA’s Title IX Harassment Policy training for all chapters, which will be implemented next year, as well as TIPS training for all Greeks. A major part of the TIPS training is centered on recognizing dangerous alcohol use and its side effects, including bystander intervention and how a lack of accountability add to this rape culture. The councils are in support of OFSA’s effort to expand TIPS training to all second year Greek students.

            As a Greek community here at Lehigh, we understand that rape culture is a problem on all college campuses and in all Greek communities nationally, and we here at Lehigh are doing our best to address the situation in a meaningful way. We are doing everything we can to work towards getting rid of this culture from our community. If you have any further questions or concerns feel free to reach out to IFC President Matt Bay, mdb216@lehigh.edu, or IFC Campus Relations Chairman Erik Thomas, ejt217@lehigh.edu