Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

Category: Fraternity

Laura Ware Doerre

According to the April 2014 White House report Not Alone, sexual assault on college campuses is a growing problem. Most often, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows “and also most often, she does not report what happened. Many survivors are left feeling isolated, ashamed or to blame. Although it happens less often, men, too, are victims of these crimes.”

Awareness of sexual misconduct on college campuses is gaining rapidly due to the 2013 passing of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE Act, an amendment
to the federal Clery Act and a complement to Title IX that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex, including sexual violence and harassment. According to clerycenter.org, “SaVE requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs (covering virtually every campus in the United States) to increase transparency about the scope of sexual violence on campus, guarantee victims enhanced rights, provide for standards in institutional conduct proceedings, and provide campus communitywide prevention educational programming.”

Recent media coverage has brought a great deal of attention to the issue of campus sexual misconduct. It has also highlighted the complexity of the issues that surround this important topic. Demands placed upon campus administrators under the Clery Act sometimes create a tension with individual rights and freedoms. Protecting victims while providing due process to the accused can also be a delicate balancing act. And, as we have seen on a number of college campuses, the Greek system can sometimes be an easy target for decisive action on a high-profile issue.

So where does Kappa Alpha Theta fit into all of this? First, the safety of our members is paramount. In fact, our risk management policies include practices designed to protect all aspects of personal safety, including sexual assault issues. We have found that these policies are more comprehensive than the safety measures in place on many college campuses. We will continue to set the bar high when it comes to the safety of our members and others, and we are committed to supporting our collegians as they promote our policies and drive positive cultural change in their respective communities.

Second, Kappa Alpha Theta will defend the rights of our members to freedom of association, and our rights as an organization. At the same time, we are keenly interested in working together with campus administrators to address the topic of sexual misconduct. We want to take actions that are bold and meaningful, that denounce victim blaming, and that encourage bystander intervention and reporting. We are mindful that many campuses are providing exceptional training and programming on this topic, and we do not want to duplicate or even potentially contradict their efforts. We are committed, however, to joining with our peers in the Greek community to lead the charge on our host campuses in addressing this critical problem.

Kappa Alpha Theta is a member of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), a 26-member organization that serves as the national voice on contemporary issues of sorority life. Late last autumn, NPC commissioned a Student Safety and Sexual Assault Awareness Task Force that is charged with researching resources and brain storming avenues for training and prevention. In a statement published in the Washington Post in December, NPC said: “It is absolutely a priority of the sorority community to ensure our campuses are safe for women.... This is an all-student safety issue, not just a Greek-community issue, which will continue to be addressed on local and national levels.... NPC encourages our sorority women to support and care for one another. We will not turn our heads on this important issue, but rather speak up so our voices will be heard and our actions will be noticed.” The NPC task force, composed of subject matter experts, is working diligently to compile a comprehensive action plan and submit it for endorsement by NPC within the next few months.

In turn, NPC is a member of the IX for All Coalition, a recently formed group of men’s and women’s fraternities whose purpose is to ensure the preservation of our single-sex organization exemption under Title IX and the protection of our members and organizations in Title IX- related matters, including those involving campus sexual misconduct issues. The group will pursue a legislative agenda aimed at these topics and will seek strategic partnerships with similarly aligned organizations. The NPC task force plans to partner with the coalition to explore other avenues for influencing the discussion surrounding sexual misconduct.

One of the four aspirations in our strategic plan is to align resources to best execute the mission of Kappa Alpha Theta. We pay dues to NPC, and we provide several volunteers to help execute the work of the Conference. In addressing issues of widespread importance that transcend the boundaries of NPC-member organizations, we believe that leveraging the collective voice of NPC is both the most efficient and the most effective approach. Through NPC, we are committed to being Leading Women in addressing the problem of campus sexual misconduct.