November 9, 2014

Interfraternity Council Faces Criticism After Sexual Violence Video

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By GABRIELLA LEE

An Interfraternity Council campaign, involving sexual violence and alcohol education training and an accompanying video, has garnered criticism from several Cornellians, who argue that IFC’s steps did not fully address the problems of sexual assault on campus.

The unanimously passed resolution will require all chapters to tackle issues of alcohol and consent education through in-house trainings with at least 75 percent chapter attendance. The video, which has since been taken down from the IFC website, features fraternity brothers affirming the resolution’s stance, as well as providing statistics on sexual assault.

Despite IFC’s intentions to tackle sexual violence, Alex Gremillion ’18 said the video “completely disregard[ed] the voices of victims.”

“The halfhearted, misleading statements made by the presidents don’t do anything to affect any real change. You can’t use a Band-Aid when you need an amputation,” Gremillion said. “The oppressive presence of fraternities on campus and the institutional violence, sexism, racism, classism and queerphobia they bring need to be gotten rid of, not given a P.R. spin and a pat on the back for pretending to care.”

Emma Court ’15, president of the Every1 campaign, a photo campaign that aims to increase awareness of consensual sex and sexual violence, said that the IFC should not be praised until the new resolution is fully implemented.

“In the past, when the IFC has tried to implement anti-sexual violence education and required certain levels of attendance, the houses that did not meet this standard were not punished, and the men that did attend the workshops were disrespectful and did not give the speaker their full attention,” Court said. “It is very likely the same will occur with this new policy, unless the IFC makes a concerted effort to enforce this.”

Jevan Hutson ’16, a brother in the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, said that while the video and resolution is a “step forward beyond a lot of other interfraternity councils,” it is not the best way to actively target sexual assault.

“Quite frankly, if you’re really going to prove to people or perceptively show people that you’re wanting to make a difference on this issue, a video shouldn’t be the first step,” he said. “It should be doing programming that tangibly infiltrates houses to some degree and behavioral change.”

“[The resolution] views sexual violence as an event to be dealt with, not a culture that is intrinsic to fraternity life.” — Tyler Lurie-Spicer ’15

Hutson, who is also the creative director of the Every1 Campaign, added that he thinks the IFC and its alumni association are primarily worried about liability rather than actual issues of behavior.

“They’re not interested in actually solving the problem of people sexually assaulting others, like violating the autonomy of other people’s bodies,” Hutson said. “It’s like, ‘Well, these fraternity brothers are a liability, and we don’t want to get in trouble. Let’s make ourselves look good, and let’s try to push this and absolve ourselves of this problem,’ which is really the issue.”

Noah Tulsky ’16, a brother in the Delta Chi fraternity, said he thinks it is unrealistic to expect IFC to regulate all of the fraternities on campus.

“What it comes down to [is that] the IFC is a collective governing body; they receive the power from the fraternities within it,” Tulsky said. “They can only do so much. In terms of changing culture, they can only encourage people to talk about it. … They are being proactive in a sense that they are trying to get a dialogue started.”

Tyler Lurie-Spicer ’15, however, said the existence of fraternities and “bro-culture” directly leads to incidents of sexual assault and that neither the video nor the resolution properly takes that into account.

“The ‘problem’ [IFC is] trying to address is not rape culture, but rather the repercussions that have been enacted upon them,” Lurie-Spicer said. “So having a video affirming their innocence and ‘ally’ role does exactly that. … [The resolution] views sexual violence as an event to be dealt with, not a culture that is intrinsic to fraternity life.”

Lurie-Spicer added that the disciplinary actions listed in the resolution are vague and that the policy is too Cornell-centric, citing a previous bias incident that occurred in 2012.

“The resolution overtly excludes non-Cornell guests and alumni. In 2012, Sigma Pi averted any serious recourse because it claimed that the harassers were not Cornell guests,” Lurie-Spicer said. “Two years later, the policy continues, and it’s a matter of time until we see such violence recur.”

Lurie-Spicer also called the resolution “color-blind.”

“The video makes no reference of other types of bias incidents. It does not address the fact that sexual violence disproportionately targets women of color, particularly transgender women of color,” Lurie-Spicer said.

Cameron Pritchett ’15, president of IFC, however, said that efforts to address sexual violence “will not stop with a video.”

“The IFC recognizes that this video is not the solution to sexual violence. The goal … is to bring this issue to light and to foster more conversation about the topic,” he said.

Zander Tiho Liem ’15,  vice president of judicial affairs for IFC, echoed Pritchett’ sentiments.

“By requiring chapters to host their own, in-house training for members we are hoping to bring discussion and awareness of sexual assault to the average fraternity members,” he said. “Beyond taking a public stance against sexual assault, it is important that we raise awareness amongst every fraternity member.”

Noah Rankin contributed reporting to this story.

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