To the Members of the Northwestern Community:
As part of a campaign to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the IFC Executive Board sponsored large banners hanging from chapter houses. This idea was borrowed from a similar campaign done in the fall at another university by the IFC & Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault groups there. The banners were never intended to serve as a comprehensive solution, but rather as a first step in a long-term vision to bring awareness to an important social issue, and to develop an active ownership for the culture within our own chapters.
The slogans on the banners, “XYZ Stands Against Sexual Violence,” “XYZ Supports Survivors,” and “This is Everyone’s Problem” were developed to accomplish these aims. While we received positive feedback from many, including some survivors, it is clear that some of these phrases, particularly the first two, imply an immunity to these problems within our own chapters. It is clearly irresponsible and inappropriate to suggest that an entire chapter or an entire community is exempt to these problems, and the IFC Executive Board and our Presidents never intended for this to be implied. The banners were intended to be a first step in developing an active ownership for the culture within our own chapters, and we apologize if this was not done in the most appropriate manner. We recognize now how this campaign may have been emotionally triggering for survivors, and we want to make a deep, genuine apology for anyone that may have been affected. This was not our intent, but it is our fault for not being cognizant enough and not considering how it might affect others in our community. Moving forward, we will be seeking deliberate and intentional methods of bringing awareness and working to create change.
This work does not and will not end with a banner or march, and we as an executive board recognize this. Members of our community are continuously working to take a greater role in addressing this issue. Several years ago Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS) was started as a way to engage men in this important conversation. Since then, introductory MARS training has been a requirement for all new member classes, and covers important topics such as consent, identifying potentially dangerous situations, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors. Within this academic year, MARS has worked internally to develop a continuing dialogue component that was piloted in fall 2015 and has since been refined for further implementation. This dialogue covers masculinity, gender norms, and underlying misogyny and how those themes contribute to the culture of sexual violence in our community.
Starting in winter 2016, the IFC Vice-President for Membership Development developed a four-year continuing education program for IFC chapters that covers topics of masculinity and sexual violence, mental health, and diversity and inclusion. It will incorporate many of the same trainings and discussion components of the continuing dialogue MARS has worked to develop. This program includes Greek-specific spaces for sustained dialogue about important topics that affect our entire community, and provides opportunities for introspection and recommendations for change. With chapter officers this past month, we have held several extensive discussions on masculinity, how it influences the IFC and Northwestern communities, and what action we can take based on this information to ensure a progressive, safer community. These conversations go beyond “this is a problem” and challenge all members of our community to reflect on why this violence occurs and what we can do to change this culture. We feel that our role as leaders in the community is to institute long-standing change to gradually influence future leaders, future students and staff, and future community culture. The best way for this to be addressed is through continuous conversation and gradual cultural shift. Direct legal prosecution of members accused of sexual misconduct is not the appropriate role for the IFC Executive Board nor any other student organization. That said, we actively encourage chapters to hold their members accountable for any and all behavior, including removal from the organization. When chapters reach out to us about internal culture or members, we provide resources and advice on the best way to proceed, prioritizing the needs and desires of survivors first. In this way, we make the most impact on this issue by working with our chapters and other local and national organizations to influence culture and hold ourselves accountable. These steps also do not constitute sufficient action, and we are continuously developing additional ways to work towards a better community.
With this in mind, we want to be intentional and mindful about listening to and incorporating the voices of the IFC and Northwestern community. We work to serve everyone in our community, regardless of any gender or affiliation, and would invite anyone to share their perspectives with us. The board will be hosting an open, public forum for all members of the Northwestern community to voice any concerns, suggestions, or thoughts about any topic, and we feel this conversation would be an important theme to discuss further. We invite all those interested to attend this open forum on May 16, 2016 at 8:00pm in University Hall 122. In addition, we will be providing an anonymous method of providing feedback below to ensure that anyone who feels they cannot attend in person can have their voice heard.
The Interfraternity Council Executive Board 2016-2017
Anonymous Thoughts: http://goo.gl/forms/cMfXay0J1L