The two groups singled out in last year’s documentary The Hunting Ground for contributing to a culture of sexual assault on campuses across the country were big time college athletics and fraternities. So word that a Cornell University fraternity president is now facing charges of attempted rape and sexual abuse might, for some, validate the film’s premise. The truth, of course, is that sexual assault can be committed by any student at any school whether there is Greek Life on campus or not.
Still, Psi Upsilon has impressed with how it’s responded swiftly and decisively to the alleged incident at its Chi chapter last weekend. Here are a few things they’ve done right:
- Psi Upsilon Executive Director Thomas Fox announced that all activity at the Cornell chapter is suspended. Cornell’s President did the same. It might seem like a no-brainer, but is it fair that the every member should suffer for Wolfgang Ballinger’s alleged assault of a female student? Simply put, yes. A possible crime of this magnitude, said to have taken place in a frat house bedroom at 2am, demands such action until an internal investigation of what exactly took place–and who was or wasn’t involved–is complete.
- The fraternity has pledged its cooperation in working with Cornell University during the investigation. Any indication that Psi Upsilon wasn’t would have sent the absolute wrong message. In fact, it’s that type of attitude that can get a frat or sorority kicked off campus for good. We hope Psi Upsilon will continue to be up-front in its dealings with the administration.
- Psi Upsilon issued a statement that set the right tone. It reads, “Sexual assault, and any form of sexual harassment, is against our policy and in opposition of the values of Psi Upsilon…any members involved will be held accountable. The Chi Chapter at Cornell has a distinguished history with the University and we are committed to continuing to be a benefit to Cornell and the Ithaca community.” The school’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) has issued their own statement and two years ago, began requiring every chapter to receive alcohol education, consent education and bystander intervention training.
- Staff members from Psi Upsilon’s National Headquarters in Indianapolis are traveling to Cornell’s Ithaca campus in Upstate New York to help. This shows the fraternity isn’t just paying lip service to Cornell, but is taking the matter seriously by having personnel on the ground. It also demonstrates solidarity with the Ivy League institution on the issue of campus sexual assault, one of the most explosive issues confronting higher education today.
Psi Upsilon’s Chi chapter has had a series of problems in recent years, according to The Cornell Daily Sun, including hazing violations. That puts even more of an onus on Thomas Fox and his team to uncover whether this was an isolated incident or part of a chapter-wide culture that promoted sexual misconduct. Only this way can Psi Upsilon and the Cornell IFC do their part in combating what has become a national epidemic.