On Tuesday, the Amherst College Board of Trustees announced that the school would be banning off-campus fraternities and sororities starting this summer, citing concerns about sexual assault. Students who break this rule will be subject to suspension or expulsion.
Though school college-affiliated Greek life was banned in the mid 1980s, in an email obtained by Katie J.M. Baker of BuzzFeed, the Board said they hoped to squash the several off-campus, unaffiliated Greek organizations that have cropped up since then. The Board said that the conversation about expanding the policy came from discussions about ways to prevent sexual assault:
In 2013, the Sexual Misconduct Oversight Committee—a committee composed of faculty, students, staff, administrators, and members of the Board of Trustees—urged the Board to review the issue of underground fraternities at Amherst. As noted in the committee's report, underground fraternities, despite their lack of any ofﬁcial status, "possess considerable ability to shape the College's social life." At the same time, their "juridical invisibility"—the fact that they "simultaneously exist but do not exist"—prevents the College "from enforcing appropriate expectations for student behavior with respect to them, including accountability under the Honor Code." The committee asked the Board to clarify this ambiguous situation. In accepting the committee's report, the Board resolved that it would address any matters, such as this one, where Board action was needed or sought.
The letter went on to explain that as it stands, "The College has no authority with respect to underground fraternities" and "knows little about their membership or their activities," though it must still be responsible for them.
Curiously, the The Amherst Student reports that Amherst President Biddy Martin said the decision to ban off-campus Greek life wasn't related to sexual assault. But in 2012, Amherst's inadequate response to sexual assault was highlighted by an open letter from a former student, which received nation-wide media attention and other Amherst students rallied behind. Recently, the college has been criticized for their unhelpful suggestions to students about how to avoid getting raped by alumni during Homecoming weekend. Amherst is still being investigated by the DOE for its policies around this issue.
The Amherst Student says that the Greek life the college is concerned with consists of the fraternities Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon and OT. Earlier this year, a member of Chi Psi was expelled for raping a classmate, though he allegedly continued to live in the Chi Psi house after doing so. Another underground frat, Theta Delta Chi, had previously come under fire for an inappropriate t-shirt they were selling that showed a woman tressed up like a pig being roasted over a fire and the TD national organization clarified that they were not connected to the Amherst TD in any way.
As expected, none of the fraternities are too happy about the changes; the president of Chi Psi, Will Kamin, said that "there's an idea that fraternities perpetuate very counterproductive ideas of what it means to be a man," but that "the values we try to instill in guys are values of gentlemanliness and self-sacrifice and charity." Kamin and others are upset the decision has been made without discussion with the student body and are hopeful they can change Amherst's mind through student protests.
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