How to Be Part of the Solution: The Significance of Greek Self-Reflection

04/09/2015 02:42 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

Recently, heads of the National Panhellenic Council, the North-American Interfraternity Council, and the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FratPAC) published a letter to the editor in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Consider the Facts Before Condemning Fraternities and Sororities." They reiterate arguments we Greeks often use -- how our organizations "teach timeless values, expect high standards for conduct, and hold students accountable." These things are true; they are why I joined Alpha Epsilon Pi and continue to work within Greek Life. Yet the positive attributes of Greek life do not negate the statistics on sexual assault and violence. The Huffington Post recently reported that in this past academic year there have been "more than 100 fraternity-related incidents of alleged hazing, sexual assault and date-rape drugging" and that this count is likely underreported. We clearly have a sexual assault problem. We clearly also have a racism problem. And like all communities, we have an obligation to address and challenge these problems.

Our national leadership and many of our brothers and sisters, myself included, often get defensive when we discuss these issues. As long as we continue to refuse to have real conversations about the problems in Greek Life, we will never be part of the solution. Until we reflect on ourselves -- our language, our actions, our traditions -- and make some serious changes to be safe and inclusive organizations, we cannot claim to take these issues seriously. FSPAC, NIC, and NPC argue, "the merits of the fraternity experience far outweigh the damaging acts carried out by a handful of students whose actions undermine the reputations of our organizations." The moment we try to weigh our positives against the terrible things our members have done, we have missed the point. Our values and positive attributes do not cancel out the problem of sexual violence, but demand that we do more to address it.

As the founder and director of Consent is So Frat, I have the privilege to work with Greeks who are making real changes in their chapters and communities. We have held workshops with Greeks who are talking about how they can, as fraternity men and sorority women, start to make a change in their community. We have a growing group of campus representatives who are spreading messages about consent and healthy relationships within the Greek community. All of this, of course, is brought together by the messaging and education we do on our website and social media, giving Greeks the language to have the necessary conversations to integrate consent as a value into their chapter.

We see a rising movement of students, faculty, educators, administrators, legislators and others to challenge the status quo and work towards a campus culture where sexual assault is not tolerated. Greek Life is frequently part of the discussion. As Greeks, we too often see the anti-sexual violence moment and act like we are being unjustly attacked; we get so caught up in our defensiveness we never ask why we are seen as being on the opposing end of this movement.

Let us, as Greeks, listen to and support survivors. Let us listen to the women and men who have been working tirelessly to create a campus culture free from sexual violence, even when they criticize the Greek system. We as Greeks are campus leaders, we naturally want to jump to the front and help out. But we have to step back first. This is a difficult thing for us to do. But we have to listen to those, including those within our own community, who know more about these issues and who can help us to become allies and leaders in ending campus-based sexual violence.

I know why we get defensive -- it is because our organizations mean so much to us. My fraternity brought me out of some of my most difficult moments. They instilled values in me that I carry with me always. That is exactly why I founded Consent is So Frat and joined this movement. By listening to criticism and moving forward as part of the work to make campus safer, we make our organizations better. I am heartbroken and angry to see our national leaders act defensive as a means of self-preservation. They fail to realize that Greeks are survivors, Greeks are advocates and Greeks value their community. To lift up our organizations, we must stop being defensive.

FratPAC, NIC and NPC have claimed to be speaking for all Greeks. In addition to the fact that they do not represent the culturally based councils and organizations, many Greeks have recognized that defensiveness is not the answer. They know that FratPAC's actions will make it more difficult for survivors on campus to get the resources and support they need. Greeks have realized that supporting survivors must be at the center of any work we may do to prevent sexual violence. The actions of our national leadership have provided us with another opportunity to become defensive. However, if we stand against FratPAC, NIC, and NPC and say that Greeks will join survivors and their supporters in pushing for a better culture on campus, we can be part of the solution. Defensiveness is easy, and doing the right thing rarely is. Living our values has never been easy. Let us live our values, listen, reflect, change, and truly become allies in this movement.

In order for us to work towards a culture of consent in our chapters, our national leadership must be on the same page. Sign and share our petition -- Tell FratPAC to Change their Sexual Assault Legislative Agenda.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about the NSVRC and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.