For many people, the word "frat" conjures to mind several horrible images: racist theme parties, hellish bodily fluid-themed hazing activities, rapey events and emails that blatantly encourage sexual predation, etc. Eight college fraternities are hoping to change that: on Tuesday, they announced new training to combat sexual assault, hazing and binge drinking.
Per an AP report, eight leading national fraternities — Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Delta Theta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Triangle — will participate in the effort, which has been given the fancy name of the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative (FHSI). (It's worth noting that Sigma Alpha Epsilon announced earlier this year that it would eliminate pledging, that bonding period in which college-aged youths are commonly terrorized and humiliated in the name of brotherly love.) The initiative intends to combat some of the most egregious issues facing college campuses today: namely, rampant sexual assault, hazing and binge drinking. Through the FHSI, schools will be able to "take immediate action" to "educate undergraduate members of their fraternities to prevent, identify and intervene against these behaviors."
This is a really good news. The groups have a combined membership of 75,000 men at over 550 college campuses, and an estimated 35,000 undergraduates are expected to participate in the first year of the initiative. Even more encouragingly, bystander intervention programs like this one really work — sexual assault activists have been advocating for such methods for a long time now, and the White House just released a new public awareness campaign based on them. Instituting bystander intervention education in a way that directly addresses the sexist, sexually-coercive environments cultivated in many Greek life organizations is a smart idea. The same goes for preventing hazing, which can't be stopped by administrations looking the other way and occasionally administering slaps on the wrist (or harsher punishments, depending on how negative and widespread the media coverage is). This sort of behavior has to be stopped at its roots.
"If you think of the power of having all of these fraternities on a particular campus going through similar programming and similar messaging, it could definitely impact the culture on that campus fairly quickly," said Marc Mores, executive vice president of the James R. Favor & Company, a fraternity insurance company that organized the effort.
It's obvious that frat culture needs to radically change, and this initiative is an immensely laudable first step. However, it's pretty safe to assume that it will be met with a great deal of resistance — binge drinking, hazing and various manifestations of rape culture are all pretty damn intertwined with Greek culture. It's going to take a lot of work to separate them entirely.
Image via fhsi.jrfco.com.