Fraternity events draw mass attention

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Nicole Caporaso

Alpha Sigma Phi postponed their sexual assault awareness walk that was scheduled for Sunday morning to instead tentatively take place Sept. 25.

John Price, president of Alpha Sigma Phi, said the postponement is an effect of negative attention that surrounded the fraternity, the event and junior women’s studies major, Julia Grainger.

“We felt it necessary to make a compromise with people that had grievances and that was the best way we saw fit for both sides,” Price said. “Through mediation and communication we were able to reach that compromise.”

Grainger and other members of the Appalachian Social Justice Educators club at Appalachian State University posted opinions on their personal Facebook pages about why they believed Alpha Sigma Phi should not be hosting a sexual assault awareness event.

Although members of the ASJE, the posts were not affiliated with the organization.

Grainger’s post specifically garnered a large amount of social media attention and was featured on national websites, including Total Frat Move and Campus Reform. The same reporter who wrote the Campus Reform article last month that caused a stir on campus, “App State dorm bulletin board shames ‘privileged’ students,” is also the author of the article about Grainger and Alpha Sigma Phi.

Grainger’s post questioned whether the fraternity is considered “qualified” to host an event as such and cited statistics stating that fraternity men are three times more likely to rape than non-fraternity men. Grainger’s statistic can be found in a scholarly journal published in 2007 by John Foubert, Jerry Tatum and J.T. Newberry, titled “Behavior Differences Seven Months Later: Effects of a Rape Prevention Program.”

The subsequent articles written about Grainger’s post became highly shared on Facebook and negative comments were made on each article, some calling Grainger derogatory names.

“When they’re sharing an article or a blog post that’s literally calling me the words that they’re calling me and telling me that my dad should be ashamed of me and calling me a feminazi and saying that I should be locked in a basement or that App State brothers should go take care of her, all within the comments, then they’re perpetuating that rape culture, they’re perpetuating the problem and they’re not educating themselves on why it’s wrong,” Grainger said.

Some members of Alpha Sigma Phi shared or liked the Campus Reform and Total Frat Move article, something Price said his brothers have stopped. Additionally, Price said he has “no idea” how Grainger’s posts were submitted to Total Frat Move, but has since asked its author to be removed from the site.

“I think a lot of them were disappointed by the opposition and that was kind of their way to vent, which I don’t condone, and they’ve taken it down at this point, it’s not shared amongst us anymore,” Price said. “We are very adamantly against that article, it’s just a terrible thing that bred a lot of hostility, which is not why we put this event on, not at all.”

Both Price and Grainger said they became aware of the negative news articles because they were being heavily shared on Facebook and friends began to ask them if they had seen them yet.

Navigating around campus became difficult for Grainger afterwards, as she said someone spit in her direction, people yelled derogatory names at her and there were people pointing and glaring.

Grainger said she is not opposed to Greek life and she actually believes that Greeks can be very powerful in fighting against sexual assault, however, she feels that for an organization to host an event such as the sexual assault awareness walk, the organization should be fully educated and prepared.

In the month of February, Price said Alpha Sigma Phi invited Grainger and a few others to present a panel during the fraternity’s chapter meeting.

Rachel Clay, a senior women’s studies major and panelist, said the panel presentation was a negative experience for all of the panelists, including Grainger.

“I think the issue is that what’s being marketed is we think all fraternities should never even talk about sexual assault, which is not what we’re saying,” said Rachel Clay, member of Appalachian Social Justice Educators and panelist. “The issue is that the president of Alpha Sigma Phi approached us and asked us to host a panel on sexual assault for his fraternity at a chapter meeting and we agreed to do it on the basis that they would then follow up and have Red Flag come to their chapter and host a training in their chapter.”

Red Flag training never happened for the brothers of Alpha Sig, but Price said all members have completed a webinar through RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“Instead of following through with what they promised us, they decided to host an event, not follow through and have Red Flag come to their chapter and they never requested Red Flag to come because I checked with Ellen Hartman, the advisor,” Clay said. “Not only that, but when we did the sexual assault panel for them I have not felt that disrespected and vulnerable in a very long time. They were vile, they were rude, they argued with us.”

Price said he and his brothers took it upon themselves to start a sexual assault awareness conversation in the Greek community, which began with the panel, something he said went well.

“It struck a personal chord with a lot of us because some of us have had personal experience in the matter and we felt in our hearts that it was something we ought to do to show our support, especially as a group that doesn’t always necessarily show support in the subject,” Price said. “I thought there were a few bumps in the road perhaps, but I thought it was resolved whenever an issue arose and from our end we thought that it was actually very effective.”

Grainger and Clay plan to continue their advocacy for social justice focused causes, but said they might gear their message toward a different group and not fraternity men, moving forward.

“I think I’m going to continue on business as usual, but I think I’m done centering my focus on fraternity men,” Clay said.

Price said since things began to go wrong, he and members of the ASJE have been in communication, which lead to deciding to postpone the event.

When the event actually does take place, Price hopes attendees are there for the right reasons.

“After the whole Facebook thing, our attendance shot up and I think it was out of spite on a lot of people’s part,” Price said. “I hope people really take into consideration those who were affected by this and I hope this will permeate the conversation into the Greek community in a positive light. I think it’s something that needs to be addressed and I hope that’s what comes of it.”

Story by Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter