In light of the alleged sexual assault that occurred at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) house on Sunday by two men believed to be unaffiliated with the University, the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) voted Monday night to ban open fraternity parties for the rest of the semester and to arrange to have more sober student monitors at fraternity events.
“The Inter-Fraternity Council, the governing body of 12 Johns Hopkins fraternities, is concerned by the recent series of events that have occurred over the past few months at fraternity sponsored events,” a statement released by the IFC to The News-Letter read.“Every member fraternity of the IFC has agreed to stop hosting open events for the rest of the Fall 2014 semester.”
Although many fraternities’ national bylaws restrict parties to “invite-only” gatherings, this rule has not been consistently upheld by Hopkins fraternities.
In accordance with the IFC’s decision, Hopkins fraternities will restrict their social gatherings to date parties and formals, where fraternity members personally invite a guest to the event, and to mixers, where fraternities invite all of the members of one sorority.
IFC President Tom Laughlin, a member of Beta Theta Pi (Beta), did not directly attribute the IFC’s recent decision to last weekend’s alleged sexual assault but said that the incident prompted decisive action.
“We have been looking at ways to cast Greek Life in the best image possible all semester, but the SAE [incident] certainly made our decision easier,” Laughlin said.
At the weekly Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Tuesday, Director of Student Activities Robert Turning said that this decision will force Greek organizations to take responsibility for their actions.
“[Greek organizations] need to address their problems in an adult way,” Turning said. “This adds to the sense of urgency with which we need to address Greek issues.”
At its Monday meeting, Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez asked the IFC — which consisted of its executive board, representatives from all of its fraternities and several fraternity presidents — to decide on actions that would make their fraternities safer.
“[I] shared with the groups my on-going concerns about student safety with respect to binge drinking and off-campus parties and that the recent sexual assault allegation was an instance for us to consider interim measures to keep students safe until we can have... fuller conversations about forthcoming recommendations [from] the Alcohol Strategy group,” Martinez wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Martinez left the deliberations after some time, and the IFC members debated for an hour, Laughlin said.
“[J-card scanning] didn’t seem like it was going to work logistically, and it’s a policy that we kind of already had, to only have Hopkins students [at parties],” Laughlin said.
Martinez expressed her approval of the IFC’s vote to increase sober monitors and ban open parties.
“I was grateful for their honesty and commitment to taking ownership of strategies at a very important time for our community. I am glad that these men will step into the conversation, but more importantly, will take action,” Martinez wrote.
Jahan Mirchandani, the IFC’s programming chair, the SGA junior class president and Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep) member, proposed this decision to the IFC.
“This is not an action that will be necessarily expected by the student body,” Mirchandani said at the SGA meeting. “This is a very drastic action, but more so, this is really the first time the IFC has really banded together in solidarity and unity in terms of agreeing upon taking this course of action. There were people that were hesitant at first. This was not exactly the most popular decision, but it is the right decision and the responsible decision.”
SGA Executive Vice President Kyra Toomre expressed her approval of the recent initiative as well.
“We’re supportive of IFC and committed to making sure that Hopkins continues to be a fun and safe environment for all the students,” Toomre said.
The IFC’s ban on open parties is expected to have widespread ramifications for social life at Hopkins.
“This course of action eliminates individuals who are unaffiliated with Greek life from fraternity activities and allows chapters to hold members accountable,” read a statement from the IFC.
Laughlin acknowledged that the IFC’s decision might affect the social lives of freshmen and students who are not affiliated with Greek organizations. However, he said he hoped that freshmen would appreciate the ramifications that the decision will have on Greek life in the future.
“[It shows that] fraternities take themselves seriously and are willing to make responsible and mature decisions regarding their actions to fix a problem,” Laughlin said.
Senior Paul Markakis, founder and president of the Hopkins colony of Phi Iota Alpha, stressed that the IFC’s decision was an important step in reducing sexual assault at Hopkins.
“We’re all in agreement that this is a good step,” Markakis said. “Of course nobody was fully happy with this decision, [but] given what happened this past week, our fraternity fully supported the decision to stop open parties. We know something needs to change — not just on our campus, but across the country. We’re confident this is a good first step, but more needs to be done.”
Laughlin agreed that while the IFC’s decision was not easy to make, it was necessary for the time being.
“People might be disappointed about it, both in Greek life and outside of Greek life, but it’s necessary right now to ensure the safety of everyone in the community,” Laughlin said. “There are other good things about Greek life [besides parties.] Fraternities might take this opportunity to reflect on themselves and also have events for only their brothers to make the brotherhood closer.”
Laughlin said he has not received any negative reactions from his fraternity brothers, but he has heard complaints from students and members of other fraternities.
“Some fraternities think that open parties are extremely vital for their recruiting, which makes sense, but they’re not seeing why this is important,” Laughlin said.
Both Laughlin and Markakis think that their fraternities’ recruiting processes will not be strongly affected by the ban on open parties.
Laughlin also cautioned that any fraternity that does not observe the ban could face serious repercussions.
“I suspect that if something went wrong, the administration would hand down consequences,” Laughlin said. “At the same time, the IFC does have a judicial board that has the power to give out punishments and consequences. [However,] I assume that if something happens, the school will take care of it.”
Although the ban on open parties is only in effect through the end of this semester, the IFC will be developing long-term strategies to improve the safety of fraternity-sponsored events. These might include requiring new fraternity members to undergo Bystander Intervention Training, a program that teaches college students how to respond to behavior that could lead to sexual assault or other dangerous situations.
Martinez expects that the administration and the IFC will incorporate the Alcohol Safety Group’s recommendations in the decision as to whether to continue the ban on open parties next semester.
Feedback provided to the University from the North American Interfraternity Conference’s Fraternity and Sorority Coalition Project will also contribute to this decision. Representatives from this consulting group will visit Hopkins from Nov. 12-14 to interview both Greek and non-Greek students, staff, faculty and administrators. Afterwards, they will make recommendations to the University about how to improve the Greek community.
Markakis said he does not view the ban on open parties as a feasible long-term solution and does not believe the ban will continue into the next semester.
“We, as a Hopkins community, not just [within] Greek life, need to have more discussions on realistic long-term, feasible solutions to not just sexual assault but also underage and binge drinking on campus and at off-campus parties,” Markakis said.
Martinez wrote that the administration would play a constructive role in developing these solutions and urged other members of the community to participate in the process as well.
“Despite what the new ‘underground’ SnapChat group [JHU Parties] says, Hopkins administrators are not becoming increasingly ‘irate’ with off-campus events. I understand that students want to enjoy themselves on the weekends. I am all for fun,” Martinez wrote. “When it becomes dangerous activities, however, we have an obligation to ensure that we have practices in place to prevent students from getting injured or worse... There is too much at stake for us not to become involved — student lives. I ask all students to step up and step into the conversation. We can all do something to make this an even better place.”
Emily Herman and Alexis Dawson contributed reporting.
Correction: This article previously stated that the alleged assailants are not affiliated with the University. This fact was reported to Campus Security but has not been confirmed.