Greek action plan tackles toxic masculinity, relationship abuse, and sex ed

 

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Sewanee: The University of the South. Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu.

By Fleming Smith
Editor-in-Chief

In an open letter to the Board of Regents from the Interfraternity (IFC) and Intersorority (ISC) Councils regarding the Charlie Rose decision, IFC/ISC announced an “action plan” that seeks to combat sexual assault on campus as well as to support survivors, including a film showing, a workshop, and a visit from Planned Parenthood for all new members of fraternities and sororities.

On April 10, a mandatory showing of the film The Mask You Live In will be held for all new fraternity members through the Wellness Center. Wilson Snipes (C’18), member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, spearheaded this initiative. The film, a 2015 documentary by the director of a similar film Miss Representation, explores how men face pressures to suppress their emotions, handle conflicts with violence, devalue friendships, and objectify women.

Through an intersectional lens, the film attempts to combat the “boy crisis,” which the documentary explains as the statistics that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, fail out of school, binge drink, engage in violent crimes, or commit suicide.

According to Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life Forbes Mann (C’10), after the film, fraternity members will participate in facilitated discussions regarding the film’s messages.

“It seemed to be a good and productive idea to have a wellness-oriented, all-new-member programming for fraternity new members in a similar way to what FEED has been for new sorority members over the past few years,” said Mann.

FEED, “Full Embodiment: An Empowering Dialogue,” is a program for new sorority members that began in 2014. The program involves small, interactive discussion groups directed towards encouraging acceptance of their bodies, a positive attitude towards sexuality and relationships, and a strong sense of self. This year, FEED will be taking place April 8, 11, and 15 through the Wellness Center.

Another facet of the action plan involves an Escalation workshop geared towards heightening awareness of relationship abuse and its signs, which will be mandatory for all new fraternity and sorority members. The workshop includes the film Escalation followed by guided discussions.

Madeleine Hoffman (C’20) leads this initiative, which was created by the One Love foundation in honor of Yeardley Love, who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend three weeks before graduating college. The workshop is currently scheduled for April 3.

Planned Parenthood will visit campus on March 27 to host a talk on sexual education and consent, a mandatory event for all new fraternity and sorority members. “I’ve been communicating with Planned Parenthood all year through the Wick, we’ve brought them a few times for Wick events. It kind of started out as a Wick event, and then I thought that we could make all the new members come, because it’s a really good opportunity to make sure they’re actually getting this information,” said ISC’s Vice President of Community Service and Education Map Pritchard (C’18), a member of Phi Kappa Epsilon.

“[Planned Parenthood has] a good college sexual education thing, and I said you could put in something about consent too, especially here, where it’s like sometimes sex and alcohol go really hand in hand. So how to navigate those lines of being respectful and consensual,” she explained. “It’s information that everyone needs. Everyone needs good sex ed, and that’s not always something you get, especially in the South.”

Although these events were planned long before the protests regarding Charlie Rose’s honorary degree, Pritchard believes the action plan shows Greek life’s commitment to condemning sexual assault on campus.

“This is a good opportunity for actually doing things on campus, to show that we don’t tolerate sexual assault and are trying to create an environment that’s conducive to victim-survivors being comfortable to tell their stories. Making sure that everyone’s on the same page and educated,” Pritchard said.

Regarding the planning of these events, Mann explained, “ISC and IFC officers and other Greek leaders began planning some enhanced, community-wide new member programming in the fall. This was proactive, and was not a reaction to any one event at Sewanee or elsewhere.”

He concluded, “We have a strong leadership group right now that is interested in making our Greek system lead changes in our community and our world. We don’t believe that toxic masculinity or relationship abuse are distinctly Greek problems; they are large-scale problems, but our Greek community can work on healing those issues at an individual and community level right here.”

According to ISC President Yin Agbontaen (C’18), the programming planned for this semester is not new, but was attempted last year as well.

“Things are still developing; we’re excited about it and excited to see where it goes,” said Agbontaen.

 

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