The so-called “Safe Campus Act,” a nonsense bill that would keep colleges from punishing rapists unless victims agree to go to the police, had seemingly unanimous support from national fraternity and sorority organizations—until today. Alpha Phi has become the first sorority to come out against the bill in a statement made “at the request of many of our members and chapters.”
In the statement, released to the Huffington Post, the Alpha Phi International Executive Board and Executive Office Staff make it clear that the sorority has “not endorsed” the Safe Campus Act and “has not committed to any financial support” to it.
“We believe our sisters who are survivors should have choices in how, when and to whom they go to for support or to report the crime,” the statement reads. “They should have their own voice and the support and encouragement they need to move forward including reporting as they choose to.”
The Safe Campus Act—which, as the Huffington Post points out, is “universally opposed by rape victims’ advocacy groups”—was proposed by Republican Reps. Pete Sessions, Kay Granger, and Matt Salmon in July. The bill would prevent colleges from investigating sexual assault allegations and punishing perpetrators unless the victim agrees to make a police report. Even then, as Slate noted last month, colleges would have to wait to punish a perpetrator until the police complete their investigation. The whole process could take years, leaving potential rapists free to roam campus and victims at risk for retaliation. This nightmare situation would, victims’ advocacy groups argue, discourage sexual assault reporting even more.
It’s not so surprising then that fraternities, which so often deal with fallout from rape accusations, are in favor of the bill. What’s interesting is that until today, the National Panhellenic Conference of sororities was also united in supporting it.
A coalition of Greek organizations including the National Panhellenic Conference, the North American Interfraternity Conference, the Kappa Alpha Order, the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and the Sigma Nu fraternity has been lobbying for the Safe Campus Act for months with the help of former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott (a former Sigma Nu). According to the Huffington Post, the coalition has so far committed $200,000 to the cause.
Sens. Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, who have co-sponsored their own campus sexual assault bill in the Senate, find this troubling. “I would be very upset if I were a young woman in a sorority today,” McCaskill told Slate last month.
We are writing at the request of many of our members and chapters to clarify Alpha Phi’s position on the 2015 Safe Campus and Fair Campus Acts which have been endorsed by the National Panhellenic Conference. Alpha Phi has not endorsed this legislation and has not committed to any financial support.
We believe in our principle of Watchcare that provides for unconditional support of our sisters at all times, including those who are survivors of sexual assault. We accept any social consequences that may be implied by others as we stand beside our sisters and support them if they choose to report the crime.
We believe our sisters who are survivors should have choices in how, when and to whom they go to for support or to report the crime. They should have their own voice and the support and encouragement they need to move forward including reporting as they choose to.
We believe universities should remain accountable for the safety of their campuses, and should continue to raise the bar to ensure that they report and respond to crimes and keep students safe. Their ability to do so should not be diminished.
We believe that each of our chapters and our members should have their own voice and should work with their communities to fight sexual assault. Alpha Phi members are strong women and leaders who can and will make a difference.
We believe in our members. We believe in Alpha Phi.
The Alpha Phi International Executive Board and Executive Office Staff