Confusion among Greek orgs leads to noncompliance with bylaws

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Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha house on Campus Road in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, CA on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

As fraternities and sororities on campus prepare to welcome new members next semester, their Greek Council representatives are working to edit bylaws within the Greek constitution, according to Andrew Porter (senior), president of Greek Council and member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE). Among the revisions, Greek Council will clarify its sexual violence prevention and education bylaws, according to Porter. The sexual violence bylaws, added to the Greek constitution in the 2017–2018 academic year, outline methods for fraternities and sororities to prevent sexual violence at social events and require every organization to arrange a Project SAFE and a Title IX training for all members every semester, according to Porter. Due to confusion surrounding the required frequency of trainings, not every Greek organization has planned or held their required training this semester, according to Project SAFE programming assistant (PA) Charlene Chen (senior).

“Greek Council doesn’t govern organizations much,” Porter said. ”We set rules and we set guidelines we want to be followed, but we don’t always have the power to enforce them.”

Elizabeth Andrews* (senior), a representative of Kappa Alpha Theta on Greek Council, wrote the original sexual violence bylaws along with other members of Greek Council and Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC). The sexual violence bylaws were intended to create a stronger sense of security in Greek life through both safety precautions at social events and Project SAFE and Title IX training, according to Andrews.

“Everyone on this campus deserves to be able to have a good time with their friends and with their organizations without feeling unsafe,” Andrews said.

A member of Kappa Alpha Theta Elizabeth Andrews (senior) discussing Greek Organizations bylaws on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

Carol Beckett (senior), president of Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha, helped edit the 2017–2018 sexual violence bylaws. Beckett said she contributed to the bylaws because she felt they were especially important to have within Greek organizations.

“I wanted my voice to be heard in them,” Beckett said. “I think they’re super necessary, especially as Greek organizations that have such a reputation as unsafe environments, to make Greek life more inclusive to everyone and more comfortable to those who would usually not consider joining.”

President of Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha Carol Beckett (senior) discussing Greek Organizations bylaws on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

The sexual violence bylaws allow Greek organizations to take a leading role in making Occidental a safer community, according to Beckett.

“These bylaws make sure that our organizations are at the forefront of these serious issues of sexual violence and sexual assault,” Beckett said. “Making sure that we train our members to understand the intricacies of these issues and the sensitivity that they create is also incredibly important to inter-org relations.”

According to Andrews, the structure of Greek Council has caused uncertainty about what is required by the Greek bylaws. Andrews said some Greek officers have not read the bylaws.

“I think that when we don’t prioritize the bylaws and explain to people why they are important, there’s no reason for people to take it seriously, which is understandable,” Andrews said. “But there is a very big disconnect right now between the people who are supposed to be abiding by them and the people who are even aware of them in the first place.”

Greek Council meeting in the Johnson Student Center (JSC) on Thursday, November 14 at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The Occidental/Amirah Al-Sagr

Wren Paris-Moe (junior), vice president of SAE, said as a chapter of a national fraternity, SAE has its own rules and guidelines that it must abide by.

“It’s all about creating a safe environment,” Paris-Moe said. “We don’t want any environment to be the slightest unsafe or have a notion of anyone thinking that it’s unsafe.”

According to Paris-Moe, there were proposals to change the structure of sexual violence education trainings this semester.

“We’ve had an interesting semester,” Paris-Moe. “Usually, each individual organization sets up their training session with Project SAFE, but this year, SLICE was trying to change that to a coordinated effort where all the Greek orgs would do it on one day in a six- to eight-hour training.”

While this plan has been abandoned for this semester, talks of changing the format of the trainings caused confusion among Greek organizations, according to Paris-Moe. According to Paris-Moe, SAE is now working to plan their organization’s Project SAFE training.

Along with her role as a Project SAFE PA, Chen is vice president of Delta Omicron Tau. Chen said when she began working at Project SAFE, she noticed the sexual violence bylaws had created confusion among Greek organizations.

“Delta has always consistently gotten training once a semester, and we’ve always been under the assumption that that was the requirement for every org,” Chen said. “However, starting work at Project SAFE, I feel like there’s a little confusion and some of the orgs aren’t sure if it’s a once a year thing or if it’s required every semester.”

Not every Greek organization has planned or held their required training for the semester due to uncertainty surrounding the frequency of training, according to Chen.

“The ideal is that there are trainings every semester, but I don’t know if that’s actually going to carry out,” Chen said. “With the semester coming to an end, it doesn’t seem like we’ve gotten everyone trained yet, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get everyone trained.”

Chen said it can be difficult for Greek organizations to see the Project SAFE trainings as more than a requirement.

“I think that it’s also another challenge for us as PAs to get the orgs independently motivated and be like, ‘We want this training, not just because we’re checking off a box to fulfill some law,’” Chen said.

Shaneice Warfield, assistant director of student involvement, oversees Occidental’s Greek Council and all Greek organizations. Warfield said when she entered the role in June, the Greek Council bylaws were fairly vague, partially because the majority of Occidental’s Greek organizations are local and do not have national oversight of their chapter.

“Taking a look at the bylaws, I think that they were a tad bit lax,” Warfield said. “One of my goals for Greek Council in general is to make sure that all trainings happen.”

Because of administrative turnover, roles in the SLICE office that help enforce bylaws have been unstable, and Greek Council’s ability to enforce bylaws has been weakened in recent years, according to Andrews.

“We don’t really have a good way to enforce [the bylaws],” Andrews said. “The administrator is supposed to support us, but right now it’s not like we have any fines or any ramifications for not following the guidelines.”

Andrews said the historic lack of administrative support has made it difficult to be an active member within the Greek community. Greek organizations were especially affected by the departure of Diego Silva from the college in November of 2018, according to Andrews.

“It’s really frustrating as a student because I want to create change and I want to support the Oxy community, but I don’t have anyone in the administration to help me with that,” Andrews said. “We lost a lot when we lost Diego. He was the only consistent person from year to year.”

Ruby Ferehawk (junior) is vice president of Greek Council and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Ferehawk said she wants to create a stronger structure for Greek Council to regulate bylaws, but administrative turnover has presented challenges.

“When I joined Greek Council, I really tried to make it something more than it is, which is right now just nothing,” Ferehawk said. “There is a lot of turnover in SLICE, and we don’t always have an advisor. So we’ll see if [the sexual violence bylaws] fall through the cracks. I hope not, but we’ll see.”

Sarah Young (senior) is a member of Delta Omicron Tau. Young said it is important to recognize issues of sexual violence as community-wide issues because they can be easily ignored.

“If you want to ignore [sexual violence] at Oxy, it’s possible to,” Young said. “If you don’t want to think about it, you don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going on.”

*Elizabeth Andrews is a former layout editor for The Occidental