By Fleming Smith
Last week, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Interfraternity/Intersorority Councils (IFC/ISC) released a statement to the student body that condemned sexual misconduct and promised to hold perpetrators responsible. According to SGA President Mac Bouldin (C’19), this is only the first of measures to come, including a new student advisory board for the Title IX system.
The statement, co-signed by Bouldin and ISC/IFC presidents Mary Margaret Murdock (C’19) and Garrett Lucey (C’19), pledged to “stand firmly against the perpetuation of a campus-culture that tolerates sexual harassment and assault.”
Furthermore, they wrote that sexual misconduct should constitute “offences [that] are grounds for removal” from organizations that consider one’s actions a criteria for membership. Read the full statement below this article.
According to Bouldin, he began working on the statement over the summer, then shared his ideas with Murdock and Lucey. “Though the statement alone will not end sexual assault, the hope is that it will set the tone for real progress this coming year,” Bouldin told The Purple.
Bouldin said that many people had approached him about doing more to confront sexual assault on campus. “Often, these concerns revolve around the Title IX investigation process. The problem is that these investigations are confidential and insulated from other entities on campus,” he explained.
He continued, “There are very good reasons for that, but it can lead to confusion and frustration. We are in the process of creating a student advisory board for Title IX in hopes of alleviating some of those issues.”
The idea of a student advisory board for Title IX was brought up by Dr. Sylvia Gray, who is the new Title IX Coordinator after serving as deputy coordinator last year. Bouldin said the board will serve as an extension of SGA but will be “made up of a diverse group of students from across campus.”
The board is in the early planning stages, and Bouldin said a group will soon begin work on a charter. He added that the board will “help facilitate better communication” on sexual misconduct issues between students and the administration, though it is not yet clear what path that will take.
While speaking to The Purple, Bouldin emphasized the power students have to prevent sexual assault before it happens.
“The administration can provide the resources and guidance, but when it comes to changing the campus culture, each of us has to do our part,” he commented.
Bouldin hopes that first-year students especially will hear this message, as well as those “who have become frustrated with inaction,” he said. “We want them to know that we hear them, and we are working to make things better.”
He added, “To be clear, we all know that a statement alone is not enough. The statement is not the end of our efforts, it is only the beginning. We will continue to work on this issue throughout the year. I encourage anyone who wants to be directly involved in this process to reach out to me.”
Murdock, as President of ISC, said that Greek Life is also working on ways to address sexual misconduct with their own organizations. For instance, Phi Kappa Epsilon (PKE) is starting a sexual assault advisory board within the chapter, Murdock told The Purple.
“As far as the Greek system goes, I think we can make some significant improvements on this issue, and I think we are realizing more and more that sexual assault affects people we know and love. It’s going to take all of us to work together to keep holding ourselves accountable and treating everyone with the respect they deserve as our neighbors,” she continued.
Lucey, as President of IFC, told The Purple, “It is too early to tell, but I certainly hope that this statement will influence fraternities and sororities to take harsher stances on such conduct than before. It is simply time for Greek Life to take hold of the issue and hold ourselves accountable. I think that the campus, and certainly Greek Life, can do more to prevent sexual misconduct and I hope that this statement is a step in the right direction.”
As the academic year continues, all three student leaders stressed that this is only the beginning of their efforts to confront sexual misconduct on campus.
“We will not end sexual assault overnight, but having the conversation is the first step. If we all do our part, we can make Sewanee a better and safer place for all who come after us,” Bouldin said.
Full statement from IFC/ISC, and SGA:
“Sewanee’s student organizations are committed to creating an environment that is safe and welcoming for all members of the Sewanee community. The members of Interfraternity Council and Intersorority Council, in conjunction with the Student Government Association, condemn in the strongest possible terms any act that harms or degrades a member of the Sewanee community. In particular, our organizations will stand firmly against the perpetuation of a campus-culture that tolerates sexual harassment and assault.
Such actions may include but are not limited to: unwanted touching or sexual advances, offensive or humiliating behavior relating to one’s sex, gender, identity, or sexual orientation, or any sexual activity without explicit and affirmative consent.
Anyone who facilitates or takes part in such actions is in direct conflict with the goals and purposes of our organizations and has no place in our community. In organizations where one’s actions are a consideration for membership, these offences are grounds for removal. When possible, the leaders of student organizations can and should take the necessary steps to denounce the actions of individuals who are found responsible for violating these standards of behavior. Furthermore, anyone who seeks to protect an individual found responsible for such actions by providing false testimony, publicly or privately, is also in violation of our standards of behavior.
These principles shall be applied not only to those seeking membership in our organizations, but also to those who have attained membership and have since been found to have committed or participated in any of the aforementioned acts or behaviors. In such cases, the member can and should be held accountable according to the rules and regulations of the respective organization.
The condemnation of these actions and behaviors is an appropriate and necessary step toward a community free of sexual violence. Nevertheless, it is only one part in a long process which we are committed to pursuing both as individuals and through our organizations.
In reaffirming our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment through our organizations, we hope to remind all members of the Sewanee community of the importance of EQB and mutual respect for all.
Signed by Garrett Lucey, IFC President; Mary Margaret Murdock, ISC President; and Mac Bouldin, SGA President.”
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