Greek lobbying for change in sex assault investigations

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Cassie Gibbs

News Editor

Greek-affiliated organizations will be lobbying in Washington, D.C., on April 29 to change the power that universities have when investigating sexual assault cases.

The lobbying effort is led by the Fraternity & Sorority Political Action Committee, or FratPAC, the  North-American Intrafraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference.

According to a Bloomberg news article, the groups are lobbying to have the “criminal justice system resolve cases before universities look into them or hand down punishments.”

This effort comes after some universities have required that fraternities become co-educational, or entire Greek systems have been suspended over allegations of sexual assault, such as the now-discredited sexual assault case at the University of Virginia.

Troy University’s policies for sexual assault reports and allegations can be found in the Oracle and the annual safety report, which is a requirement of the Jeanne Clery Act.

According to Troy’s safety report, a victim who reports an incident of sexual assault can “choose for the investigation to be pursued through the criminal justice system and the University Conduct Council, or only the latter.”

It also states that a “student found guilty of violating the university sexual misconduct policy could be criminally prosecuted in the state courts and may be suspended or expelled from the university for the first offense.”

If a conduct case results in an off-campus arrest and trial, the university will continue with its own hearing on the case.

“If charges pertaining to a conduct case also result in an off-campus warrant against the accused student or organization, the university will proceed with on-campus conduct action.”

Since 2012, Troy University has had two reported sexual assault cases that occurred on campus in residence halls, according to the safety report.

Maxwell Herman, a sophomore hospitality management major from Panama City Beach, Florida, and Troy’s Intrafraternity Council vice president of recruitment and public relations, said that he believes the university is a key component in keeping sexual assault cases at a minimum.

“I believe that the university should be in charge,” Herman said. “That’s why the university owns the houses, so they can be in charge. More bad things could happen if we just let the criminal justice system investigate.”

Erin Salter, a junior nursing major from Orange Beach, and the president of Troy’s National Panhellenic Council, said that while sexual assault is a crime, everyone should not be punished for one person’s actions.

“I don’t like that universities are punishing the entire Greek system,” Salter said. “I do think sexual assault is a terrible crime that should be handled correctly.”

The NIC and NPC said in a statement that they while they support student safety, they also wish to have powers outside of university police to help with investigations of sexual assault cases.

“The North-American Intrafraternity Conference (NIC) and the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) remain united in fighting against sexual violence,” according to the statement. “We fully understand and support campuses acting swiftly on behalf of a student victim affected by sexual violence.

“We are dedicated to supporting a student’s rights, whether or not he or she belongs to a fraternity or sorority. We also fully support the student’s right to choose his or her course of justice.

“We believe in fairness provided to all parties during the adjudication process and insist on due process for every student and every student organization involved with a sexual assault report. In cases of sexual violence, we advocate for interim measures to keep potential threats to students from being on campus and measures to help encourage student victims to continue to come forward without the fear of an entire community being punished by the campus administration.

“We fully recognize that our campus colleagues are essential to helping provide appropriate support resources.”

FratPAC representatives were unavailable for comment.

Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is one group that doesn’t support the NIC and NPC’s lobbying efforts.

Kevin Kruger, president of the administrators’ group, said in an email that the group is not in favor of the NIC and NPC lobbying to have the action of all houses being suspended due to an incident at one house.

“The students involved in the Greek system are the responsibility of the university or college,” Kruger said. “Student affairs administrators need to be able to assess the risk to the students and suspend houses if necessary.”

In response to the NIC and NPC lobbying for the intervention of the criminal system, Kruger said: “It’s a really, really, bad idea. Universities and colleges needs to be able to take immediate action that the courts cannot. The criminal justice system has been a virtual failure in its ability to address sexual assault.”

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