For the first time in more than 100 years, the University of Wisconsin Panhellenic Association changed their policies to combat sexual assault and hold members accountable.
The Panhellenic Association previously had no policies regarding sexual assault on campus, and the university was the only prosecuting entity to discipline members of the Greek community involved in sexual assault on campus.
The university and UW Police Department, however, still have jurisdiction over sexual assault and discrimination cases, Panhellenic chief associate justice Madeleine Haberman said.
Until the change, it was completely up to the university to discipline members of the Greek community that were involved in sexual assault on campus, Haberman said. The organization had no mention of repercussions regarding sexual assault in their bylaws.
“There was a real need to address this issue,” Haberman said.
Rachel Gold, president of the Panhellenic Association, said she recognized that the Greek community often receives a “poor reputation” on campus when it comes to topics such as skipping class, drinking and sexual assault.
These new policies will allow Greek communities to take steps to address sexual assault issues in relation to their members, Haberman said. In turn, this may help change that “one in four” statistic, she added.
“Hopefully within the Greek community, it will make students and members feel safer and give them a better peace of mind knowing these bylaws are in place,” Gold said.
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While one in four female undergraduate students will experience sexual assault at UW, this does not specifically refer to Greek life. Rather, it applies to the university as a whole.
By creating these bylaws, the Panhellenic Association hopes to send a message throughout the campus to bring awareness to sexual assault, Gold said.
Haberman said she hopes UW and other campuses across the U.S. will continue working to eliminate all cases of sexual assault and dating violence.
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Moving forward, Gold said she hopes UW students see the actions the Greek community is taking against these crimes. She said she hopes students not involved in Greek Life will take a stand as well.
“I hope the university sees that we’re installing and enforcing these bylaws and hopefully that expectation will be upheld by the entire university as well,” Gold said.