Editorial: Loftin, Consortium ought to learn from their comedy of errors leading up to summit.
While the summit has potential, mistakes need to be addressed in order to be considered the ‘national model.'
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.
Jul. 07, 2015
A surge of optimism burst from Stotler Lounge on June 20 following the Chancellor’s Summit on Sexual Assault. More than 250 students, faculty, administration and alumni gathered to work toward policy solutions for combatting sexual violence. At the post-summit press conference, we were relieved to hear Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs say, “It's going to take all of us to deal with (the problem of sexual violence)” — an approach contrary to the ugly series of events that unfolded before the landmark summit.
While we are glad to see student and administrative participation in a cooperative effort toward creating policies combating sexual violence, we implore our administrative leadership to learn from the comedy of errors that brought us to this point. Other universities will only look at us as, in Scroggs words, a national model for pragmatically discussing this issue if all the stakeholders have a definitive seat at the table. This means the next event of this kind should be held during a time where most students are actually on-campus (not in June!), with participation of all the stakeholders in the issue of sexual assault and without black curtains blocking people out.
But how did we get here? Where did the mistakes begin? It all began with the leak of information onto social media about four new proposals intended to make Greek Life safer and curb sexual assault — proposals that were conceived without the participation of students or any women. The ensuing outrage over the proposals culminated in an avalanche of social media posts from students who felt disenchanted over not having been consulted in any form by the Fraternity Alumni Consortium. The leaked proposals even inspired the creation of not one, but two Twitter accounts made by students in opposition to the regulations.
MU students should not have been caught off-guard by these leaked proposed regulations, especially given the scope and magnitude of the proposals themselves. They should have been consulted and invited to participate in this process from the very beginning. The decision to begin drafting possible regulations without the participation of student leadership has numerous negative implications, the first of which being the presumption that sexual assault and violence is an issue exclusive to Greek Life. Of the 290 reports of sex discrimination during the 2014-15 school year at MU, 111 involved participants in Greek Life. It should go without saying that sexual assault is a problem affecting our campus as a whole, not just our Greek community.
Furthermore, the decision to not consult the student leadership also implied that Greek Life isn’t already making similar efforts to combat sexual violence, which couldn’t be further from the truth. On June 15, just five days before the summit, the Panhellenic Association announced their sexual violence education plan — a plan that has been in the works since January. Last fall, the Interfraternity Council began educating members to become peer educators in sexual assault prevention, masculinity, gender roles and other issues. This isn’t to mention the numerous other programs and resources utilized by students that exist for sexual assault survivors, such as the RSVP Center and the Title IX Office.
The student leadership in Greek Life, as well as in various organizations around campus, are without a doubt eager to sit down and discuss this issue. The energy and enthusiasm of the limited amount of students allowed to attend the summit are evidence of this. After all, PHA President Allison Fitts said after the summit that the intent of their response letter to Chancellor Loftin was to ensure they got a seat at the table.
Five days after the news of the proposals hit social media, the almost Orwellian mandatory drug testing for all members of Greek Life was scrapped by the Consortium themselves. This move implied that either the Consortium just didn’t want to stand by their proposals in the wake of criticism, or that they underestimated the impact their proposals would have on students.
Furthermore, a flyer advertising the summit was circulated on social media, which said the summit was to "create strategies for the implementation of the policies." If this truly was the Consortium’s original plan on how to initiate a discussion with students on this issue, it sure was a shoddy one. Students shouldn't be consulted on how to implement policies they didn't have a hand in conceiving, and what’s more, women shouldn’t be left out of a process to create policies designed to protect women from sexual assault. It’s self-evident that no group understands what it is like as a woman in Greek Life better than the women who participate in Greek Life.
Scroggs and Missouri Students Association President Payton Head have both said the summit has the potential to become a national model. While we absolutely agree with them that, there are still issues with the transparency and inclusivity of the summit that must be addressed. The silence from campus administrators throughout this whole series of events must be corrected. It's not sufficient to just make officials available for comments after the summit. We would have liked to see statements from Scroggs, Loftin and others leading up to the summit. We would have liked to see more than live tweets on the summit. We would have liked to see media allowed in the room. Looking forward, we hope that Stotler Lounge’s glass doors are unobscured and press are allowed to attend.
Sexual assault is an issue affecting everyone who walks through this campus. The summit, while originally and primarily intended to be about the safety of women in fraternity houses, has evolved into a much larger discussion about an even larger issue. Naturally, it only makes sense that the national model for productive discussion and brainstorming should not be restricted to the Greek community. All the stakeholders in this issue have a right to participate in this discussion.