The term “sexual assault” elicits strong reactions from students. They want it off their campuses, now. Legislative and media spotlights remain fixed on campus sexual assaults, and many are wondering what they can do to help. As a growing number of universities update their policies and link sexual assault to alcohol—stating that students consuming alcohol are incapable of providing consent—more students have been left confused about how to educate their peers.
To cut through the confusion and lead their campuses on sexual assault prevention, SigEp chapters across the country have teamed up with national sorority Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi) to host open and honest conversations about sex, consent and university policies. “We believe that our members can bring male and female students together to have conversations that ultimately make our campuses safer,” said SigEp CEO Brian Warren, Virginia ’04. In April, SigEp announced that it had teamed up with ADPi to educate students about sexual assault and challenge them to continue the conversation with an innovative campaign called Live Your Oath.
The campaign was launched with a compelling, forthright video about the nature of sexual assault and the misperceptions associated with it. The message seeks to empower male and female members of the two organizations to educate their peers. After viewing the video, chapter leaders hosted discussions that advanced the conversation about sexual assault and how members can lead their campus in awareness and prevention.
While most universities provide education to students about alcohol use, safe sex and consent, the SigEp/ADPi partnership is unique in that the program puts coeds at the front of the room and asks them to lead the conversation.
The Texas Tech Chapter inspired the social media
campaign Live Your Oath” when members took to
Facebook and encouraged others to support
sexual assault prevention efforts on their campuses.
ADPi International President Tammie Pinkston told the Huffington Post, “Women today are much more open and willing to talk about these topics.”
Another factor that makes Live Your Oath unique is the high number of students reached through a combined SigEp/ADPi network of more than 36,000 undergraduates. The significance of scale shows up on social media where chapters are promoting the campaign and educational video. By the end of the spring semester, the video had been viewed more than 190,000 times on YouTube and Facebook.
Pinkston and Warren expressed hope that other fraternities, sororities and student organizations would also be empowered by the campaign’s message and resources. The video and discussion guides launched in April were made available to university staff and administrators across the country.
Why this campaign is personal
The issue of sexual assault prevention is personal for so many students. When asked about his chapter’s efforts to create awareness about campus sexual assaults, American Chapter President Glenn Holmes, ’15, said, “As guys who have moms, sisters and female friends, it was a no-brainer.”
Maggie Bridges, a senior at Georgia Tech and the lead female voice of the Live Your Oath video, said she was immediately interested when asked to participate. “A close friend of mine was sexually assaulted when she withdrew consent after initially saying yes, and she came to me first. I believe the guy knew what he did was wrong, but I’m not sure he knew the extent of it,” said Bridges.
“I see so much tragedy there. Now, they both have a burden they’ll carry for the rest of their lives, and sadly, it could have been prevented.” Bridges believes the campaign will have a tangible impact on campuses across the country. “It was an honor to play a role in this video, and I’m thankful that SigEp and ADPi allowed me to take a part in ending sexual assault on college campuses.”
Valparaiso RLC’s chapter officers met with University President
Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D. and Assistant Director for SAAFE Office
Paula Dranger, to discuss the impact of the SAAFE House
program on their campus.
A fraternity’s commitment to the cause
The Live Your Oath campaign is only SigEp’s most recent effort to support university partners as they seek solutions to a challenging campus-wide problem.
“SigEp chapters are already building awareness about this important issue,” said SigEp Grand President Phillip A. Cox, Indiana ’84. “They are creating safe chapter environments and educating members about healthy relationships and confident intervention.”
The Fall 2014 Journal featured the Valparaiso Chapter, whose “SAAFE house” program has been credited with transforming their campus. “This program has been incredibly important in changing the culture of our institution,” said University President Dr. Mark A. Heckler. “The SAAFE squad that the SigEp SAAFE house uses has stopped potential issues all across the campus.”
The Texas Tech Chapter even inspired the social media component of the national Live Your Oath campaign. In December 2014, Kevin Koestler, Texas Tech ’15, and Alex DeRossi, ’17, had every member of their chapter sign a flyer showing their commitment to sexual assault prevention and posted a group photo to Facebook challenging others to follow their lead.
“We really wanted to make an impact,” said Koestler. “Every one of us took the pledge, and we wanted to spread awareness through our Greek system and throughout SigEp as well.” SigEps at American, Florida International, Rider, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Utah quickly followed suit. None of them anticipated that this simple gesture would help shape a national partnership between SigEp and ADPi.
Outgoing Utah Chapter President Maxwell Kilcoyne, ’15, believes awareness is just one piece of the sexual assault prevention puzzle. “Ultimately, it’s on us to learn how to identify and prevent sexual assault on our campuses,” said Kilcoyne. “That’s what this effort is all about.”
Before speaking at the 2015 International Conference on Masculinities, Shane McKee, Washington State
Renaissance, second from right, and Dale Vaughn, Southern Methodist ’06, center, sat down with The
Huffington Post to share how SigEp is combating campus sexual assaults.
SigEp’s national leaders have shown they agree with Kilcoyne’s assessment. The Fraternity sponsored a panel discussion at the 2015 International Conference on Masculinities to advance the conversation about prevention with researchers and university faculty. Panelists Dr. Shane McKee, Washington State Renaissance, and Dale Vaughn, Southern Methodist ’06, joined Lisa Hickey, Publisher and CEO of The Good Men Project, to discuss the positive impact that fraternities can continue to play in a national movement to raise awareness and educate men about how to prevent sexual assaults from occurring.
McKee and Vaughn shared how SigEp’s Balanced Man Program, Residential Learning Communities and national leadership events are helping educate college men about safe environments, responsible relationships and confident intervention. The pair delivered a similar message during a live interview with Huffington Post’s Nancy Redd and Tyler Kingkade prior to the conference.
As universities continue to look for ways to address campus sexual assaults, one thing remains clear: SigEp will be there to help. Announcing the Live Your Oath campaign, Grand President Cox recounted similar calls to action:
“Throughout our history, we’ve helped colleges and universities fulfill their missions while serving as a valued partner in higher education. We’ve sought to provide solutions and lead change in the face of adversity, and today we are being called on to do this again. … Our history tells us that we can be a part of the solution, and our Oath of Obligation compels us to take action.”
SigEp and ADPi will continue to work together to empower members to lead on the issue of campus sexual assault prevention. While both groups know that eliminating sexual assault will be a prolonged and challenging task, the Live Your Oath campaign has shown that undergraduates are determined to see it through.
You can read more about the effort and stay current on the campaign at www.liveyouroath.org.