MAV program spreads to sororities

by Amita Kulkarni | 12/4/07 3:21am

The Panhellenic Council voted unanimously to institute a mandatory sexual assault awareness program for all sorority pledge classes come winter at its last Fall term meeting. The program will mirror the one already in place for fraternities and organized by the Interfraternity Council, Mentors Against Violence and Sexual Assault Peer Advisors.

According to Panhell chair Kate Robb '08, the council began discussions with MAV last spring, and planning for the sorority program has been ongoing this term. Robb said that the IFC program has served as a helpful model for Panhell in determining what strategies for the program will be effective.

"It is important that women on campus are educated about this," Robb said. "There was overwhelming support from the body about the program, but it has been hard to coordinate schedules with Panhell and MAV."

While Panhell has made the training a requirement for all sorority pledges, it will be up to the individual houses to decide if members will have to attend the two-hour training session.

MAV chair Anna Swanson '08 said that the goal is to make the new sorority program similar to the IFC program instituted this term. Changes between the two programs will include having two female moderators, rather than male moderators, oversee the discussions at each sorority, as well as attempting to tailor the program to the needs of specific houses.

Additionally, topics discussed during the training sessions will be more geared to a female audience, and may include discussion of what it means to have ownership of a space, as well as the role and influence of power dynamics on individuals.

"We hope to address what you can do in a space where you aren't in authority and the various options you can take as a bystander to help out," Swanson said. "A big stress of the program will be explaining to women that when they find themselves in a power dynamic where they don't have the power, they should still feel like they have a voice and be able to comfortably speak up in that space."

Swanson emphasized that this discussion parallels those held in the fraternity pledge class trainings, as new fraternity members often grapple with power dynamics with older members of their houses.

After the success of the fraternity pilot program this term, many females in the Greek community are anticipating the start of the new sorority program.

"I'm very excited about having this program in sororities. I think it's very important to generate a dialogue regarding some of these issues and to make people more comfortable speaking about them," said Brenna O'Neill '08, president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, in an e-mail. "It's also important for sisters to realize that they can use their houses as a forum for discussion, even if that discussion is about 'difficult' topics."

Michaela Yule '10, a new member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, felt that the new program was an obvious next step for the Greek community.

"Sororities should definitely receive the same training," Yule said in an e-mail. "By only imposing it on the fraternities, we would be making a strong statement as to who is the problem here. It is not fair to say that women are the only victims, and both sexes need to receive the training to help prevent assault in all cases."

All the women that spoke with The Dartmouth said that sexual assault is a significant issue on campus, and several, including Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority president Abby Reed '08, said that the new program was vital for the College community.

"Being the president of a sorority and the overseer of 120 women, I do worry about my membership's well-being at times, especially when alcohol is involved, which it often is at Dartmouth," Reed said in an e-mail. "I would hate for anything unfortunate to occur to anyone, and I think taking a preventative approach through education is beneficial, rather than a reactive approach."

Reed added that she believes the program will be beneficial for affiliated and unaffiliated students alike, and hopes the program will eventually extend to reach all Dartmouth students.

"Anyone and everyone can be an active bystander, and it is important for everyone to talk about these issues," Swanson said.