Sexual assault shortcomings at Drexel

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

At an institution that so often promotes the inclusion and safety of all students, the realities that students face contradict those alleged values. Sexual assault and rape are undermined at Drexel and the administration cultivates an environment that allows misconduct with no repercussion.

One of the major issues of sexual assault on college campuses is that it is commonly unreported. Perhaps the reason it goes unreported so often is that universities like Drexel have a jaded and warped system that allows these incidents to keep happening. According to Women’s Health, one in five college females experiences sexual assault. Sexual assault on college campuses is reported at a much higher rate than other locations in America. This reality is because of the high presence of drugs and alcohol on college campuses, the low statistic of reporting, as well as peer pressure from other students and societal coercion to remain silent.

The following is Drexel University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Misconduct Policy: “The University is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination, including discrimination based on sex and gender, and has a zero-tolerance policy concerning any and all forms of sexual harassment and misconduct. The University prohibits sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct in any form, including, but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual abuse, stalking, intimate partner violence and any form of nonconsensual sexual conduct. The University encourages any individual who has been affected by sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct to immediately report the incident or incidents giving rise to such concerns. This policy provides several reporting options. For emergencies, the University encourages all individuals to call 911 or the Drexel University Public Safety Department at 215.895.2222.”

Regardless of whether these policies exist, it does not mean they are followed or executed properly, nor does this explain the stereotypes of particular groups on campus because of reports in specific fraternities or sports teams across the nation. When asked to comment on the Title IX policies and the lengthy process of reporting rape and sexual assault on campus, coordinator Paul Apicella did not respond to our email asking for further information. This professional contact available on the website is supposedly the “central source for all sexual harassment/misconduct allegations on campus.” The lack of correspondence was a strong enough statement.

Some victims of this unjust process have told their stories, but with discretion as not to offend or expose the administration at Drexel. We were unable to find victims willing to speak, but a few unnamed sources have informed us that the process is purposely dragged out in an attempt to force victims to give up. The Drexel administration is known for wanting to uphold the “prestigious and respected” reputation the institution so proudly holds; thus, they purposely make the process of reporting and convicting offenders drawn-out and complicated as to avoid any real repercussions.

Pi Kappa Alpha, a well-known fraternity on Drexel’s campus, has unfortunately reaped the benefits of negative stereotypes. However, this particular fraternity has shown more initiative than the Drexel administration has to combat sexual assault on campus. Marc Jordine, the current president of Pike, informed us that the fraternity always has closed, registered socials to begin with. For these socials, there is a list of attendees, one executive board member who is sober at the front door, and five to six other sober brothers to keep the peace and ensure peace and make sure everything is being handled smoothly.

Jordine shared that the brothers do not allow random guys in, simply because it is a lot harder to account for people when you don’t know who is there. The brothers are aware of who is at the party, what time they were there and are advised to always be keeping an eye on each other throughout the night. He called this “being your brother’s keeper.”

The Pike brothers have certain rules and regulations in the event that something does happen, whether it be an allegation or a formal charge. If someone is accused of rape or sexual assault, there is immediate suspension from all activities — no letters —  until further action is taken. In the event that an allegation does arise, the executive committees gather and decide which action needs to be taken in order to preserve the name of the brotherhood and ensure justice for the victim. Jordine said, “We take that very seriously because we don’t want those actions associated with our name.”

The Pi Kappa Alpha National fraternity also has specific rules and regulations that must be followed in the event of sexual misconduct. However, Jordine noted, “I’m not sure what role Drexel plays in that.” This was perhaps the most concerning to me, given that there was a rape allegation against a Pike brother and though the police were involved, the university remained silent. The National Fraternity wants the brothers to be educated on safety, empowerment and basic human decency. Drexel PD has been trying to educate and raise awareness among Greek organizations on campus, not the school. The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity often has guest speakers. This year they had one at chapter and one at their board elections on how to handle emergency situations and who to call or contact if you see or know of sexual assault. “That’s not Drexel, that’s us taking the initiative,” said Marc.

Jordine said, “There’s definitely a stereotype, and we definitely get it pretty bad at Drexel because of the whole ‘Pike Spikes’. It rhymes and I am sure it has happened before, just not here. We do not spike girls’ drinks and we definitely don’t condone sexual assault. Just because I am in a fraternity, does not mean I am a stereotypical frat boy. When one brother rapes a girl, it doesn’t mean everyone in the frat is bad. We are not disgusting; we don’t tolerate that.”

Jonatha Stewart is the President of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority at Drexel University. I asked her what she had to say about the rape culture on Drexel’s campus and what sororities do to make people aware and any resources they have. Stewart explained, “there is a whole position dedicated to campus activities on PHC executive board and they work on planning awareness events to help us stay informed about rape, sexual assault and other things that people at college could experience.” Stewart further elaborated that sororities have done several events related to self-defense and what to do in those situations. For example, she mentioned, “’don’t stall just call’ focused on what to do when someone is too drunk, but we used it for sexual assault as well.” Stewart went on to explain that at social events with fraternities or other clubs and at formals, Phi Sigma Sigma has sober sisters at every event to keep everyone safe. She feels it is important to educate the new members of the sorority. “We have new member education dedicated to keeping people safe about what to do in that situation. Also, Drexel really employs the see something say something approach and we do too, but a lot of events cater to making sure that [if] — god forbid — someone is assaulted they know exactly what to do and have the resources to help them in any way.”

Perhaps one of the most recent and newsworthy incidents of mishandled sexual assaults on Drexel’s campus occurred in 2017. The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was on social probation and had an unregistered party. During the unregistered party, a female was sexually assaulted by two fraternity members. When the woman came forward and explained the situation, the school later found out that this attack occurred at an unregistered party.

The Drexel Crime log reported on April 28, May 4 and May 18 of 2017: “Sex Offense-Rape-Forcible Rape,” “Sex Offense-Rape-Forcible Rape,” “Sex Offense-Rape-Known Acquaintance”, “Sex Offense-Rape-Forcible Rape,” respectively.

The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was suspended from all campus activities and lost recognition as an organization for five years because they had an unregistered party, not because of the alleged sexual assault. It was known by some people at the university what happened at the party, but the school did not hold the fraternity accountable for the incident. Drexel did not prosecute or even investigate the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity for the sexual assault allegations. This further underscores the issue of mishandling sexual assault in an attempt to save a university’s reputation.

Rapists are going to attack. They will continue to attack regardless of whether Drexel sends out an email or has an office of inclusion and safety, or whether there are available resources on campus. With the current situation of COVID-19 and major changes to social gatherings, there is the hope that people will have time to think about and decide what is really important. Students, upon returning to campuses, might decide that the culture of Greek life is not that important. Nevertheless, there is the hope that rape culture might calm down, or that people will value privacy and respect others more openly. On the other hand, when COVID-19 is forgotten and students return to college, the partying may increase and lead to people losing control and sexual assault will skyrocket.

In order to raise awareness and hopefully put an end to the rape culture on college campuses and sexual assault, we need to keep the conversation going. Raising awareness and promoting education are small steps in eradicating rape culture on campuses. Hosting events with both the fraternities and sororities on campus to define and explain sexual assault and rape, as well as hearing victim experiences may bring attention to the seriousness of this topic. Education is necessary for knowledge to be attained.

The students are the voice of change on this campus. They are the ones taking the initiative to combat this environment that enables sexual assault. These students are the ones who need to see the effect something this grave can have on a person and everyone around them instead of just reading about the situations that happen on Drexel Campus in an email. The administration has failed the students up to this point, and it is time for a change.

Read more here: https://www.thetriangle.org/opinion/sexual-assault-shortcomings-at-drexel/
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