Greek life, rape culture and IUP

A Civic Project story: Greek life at IUP (I)

The Sigma Chi fraternity house, 246 S. Seventh St., Indiana, Pa. Photo by Logan Hullinger Indiana, Pa., police Chief William C. Sutton, IUP Davis Hall, Oct. 16, 2015. Photo by David Loomis

The Sigma Chi fraternity house, 246 S. Seventh St., Indiana, Pa. Photo by Logan Hullinger

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA – Indiana University of Pennsylvania saw a surge in reported sexual assaults during the fall 2015 semester — and fraternity life could be contributing to it, research studies, local police and IUP students suggest.

Police reported six incidents of sexual assault involving IUP students since the start of the 2015-2016 academic year in August.

This is the same number reported by university police for the entire 2014 calendar year and triple the number of cases reported in 2012, according to the campus police department’s October 2015 IUP Annual Security Report.

On Sept. 1, Indiana borough police charged IUP freshman William R. Scott, 19, with several counts of raping and sexually assaulting a female student. Police said the assault occurred during an Aug. 28 party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house adjacent to the IUP campus at 246 S. Seventh St.

The rape survivor’s detailed report said she had been handed an open container of alcohol from which she drank and lost consciousness. She regained consciousness during the assault, she reported.

On Oct. 13, District Attorney Patrick Dougherty dropped charges when the woman refused to testify at a preliminary hearing.

“In this case, it was not a lack of evidence,” Dougherty told The Indiana Gazette. “In my mind, there’s no doubt as to what happened.”

Scott was not a member of the fraternity, according to a university spokeswoman cited in a newspaper report. The university reported that Scott withdrew from the school on Sept. 8.

However, Scott’s lawyer is seeking his readmission, said university spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling during an Oct. 29 interview in her Sutton Hall office.

Fryling declined comment on the status of Scott’s readmission effort. But she said the recent rise in reported sexual assaults and rapes is a positive sign.

“If anything, an increased amount of reported cases just shows that IUP is doing their job,” Fryling said. “It shows girls are more comfortable coming forward with the issue.”

 

_____________________

‘If anything, an increased amount of reported cases just shows that IUP is doing their job. It shows girls are more comfortable coming forward with the issue.’

— IUP spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling, Oct. 29, 2015

_____________________

 

In a second rape linked to an IUP fraternity, police in Sandusky, Ohio, on Oct. 10 arrested Domenico G. Grace-Iacovetta, 20, of Erie, a junior IUP criminology major and a member of Phi Kappa Tau. Police charged him with one count of raping a 14-year-old worker at the Cedar Point Amusement Park on the Lake Erie waterfront. He pleaded not guilty and was freed on bond, according to the Associated Press.

Grace-Iacovetta was working at the park to raise funds for his fraternity, according to an Akron newspaper account. His name was listed in the online IUP directory on Dec. 21, indicating that he was still enrolled.

 

DO FRATERNITIES  have a place on the modern campus? The question increasingly is being asked. At IUP, Valerie L. Mercado, the university’s Title IX coordinator, dismissed a suggestion that fraternities might pose a danger to students.

“Our Greek life leaders participate in training sessions in order to educate them on sexual assault,” Mercado said during the Oct. 29 interview in Fryling’s Sutton Hall office. “If it was a Greek issue, the university or fraternity has many ways to handle the situation. Incidents at fraternities should be looked at as isolated issues, and I can say that definitively.”

Several studies reach a different conclusion.

For example, fraternity members are three times more likely than other students to rape a female on a college campus, according to a 2005 local study conducted by four Ohio University professors. The study reported that fraternities often display “rape supportive attitudes” that protect members who commit sexual violence and make no honest effort to prevent it.

A 2007 local study conducted by three professors at the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., supported the Ohio University research with similar findings. The authors concluded that “more men in this study who committed sexually coercive acts during their first year of college were found among those who joined fraternities.”

A 1989 local study conducted by two Florida State University professors concluded that “fraternities will continue to violate women socially and sexually unless they change in fundamental ways.”

All three studies concluded that fraternities provide an environment in which sexual violence is easier to commit — and easier to get away with.

 

Indiana, Pa., police Chief William C. Sutton, IUP Davis Hall, Oct. 16, 2015. Photo by David Loomis

Indiana, Pa., police Chief William C. Sutton, IUP Davis Hall, Oct. 16, 2015. Photo by David Loomis

IN INDIANA, borough Chief of Police William C. Sutton acknowledged that the Indiana campus has experienced more sexual assaults in fall 2015 than in previous semesters since he became chief of police in 2001.

“We had an influx of sexual crimes,” Sutton said during an Oct. 16 classroom discussion in IUP’s Davis Hall. “It’s very disturbing.”

Sutton said fraternities provide an environment where “opportunities” for student conduct range from the inappropriate to the illegal. He cited frequent parties where women are admitted free and alcohol is readily available to underage people, served from already open beverage containers.

”The fraternity’s responsibility is not the crime,” Sutton said in a Dec. 17 phone interview. “It’s the opportunity the frat provided, and someone taking advantage. The frats have been problematic.”

Sutton noted, however, that official social fraternities have been in decline.

“When I came here in 2001, there were at least a dozen of them,” Sutton said. “Now I think only two frat houses are left.”

Another measure of the change is in his own staff.

“I used to have a liaison officer to Greek life,” Sutton said. “No more.”

 

ELIZABETH E. “Betsy” Sarneso, assistant director of student and Greek life at IUP, acknowledged studies that link social fraternities with sexual assault. But she dismissed any appearance of patterns between sexual assaults and IUP fraternities or their members.

“Do they have an environment where this behavior is acceptable? Perhaps,” Sarneso said in a Nov. 12 interview in Fryling’s Sutton Hall office. “But in order to be a pattern, it would have to be the same fraternity and same organization. If they’re different fraternities, then it becomes more isolated.”

Sarneso said news media and negative stereotypes surrounding Greek life make fraternities easy targets.

“The media loves to cover the bad things but never the good,” Sarneso said. “Fraternities are often participating in food drives and other things to benefit the community. But they don’t seem to care about that.”

The Indiana Gazette, the community’s only locally owned daily, has a news archive that suggests otherwise.

For example, a word search for “fraternity” in the newspaper’s archive produces a bylined Nov. 10 story “Salvation Army, community ring in new Red Kettle effort.” The story reports IUP Greek involvement in a local fundraising effort.

The only recent articles shedding negative light on IUP fraternity life have been those covering the recent sexual assault cases.

 

IUP STUDENTS are exposed to Greek life, often at first-hand, whether they are members of Greek organizations or not. In responses to a Nov. 24-Dec. 3 Qualtrics survey emailed to 1,000 IUP undergraduates, 30 percent of respondents said they witnessed unwelcome sexual behavior while attending fraternity-sponsored events at IUP.

Nearly half – 49 percent – said fraternity life contributes to a sexual-violence problem on campus. The number increased to 54 percent when looking only at survey responses of females.

Fewer women reported paying admission to a fraternity party. Of the 19 percent of students who said they were charged a fee to attend a frat party, only 7 percent of females said they paid. Among males, 79 percent said they were charged.

Among all students, 46 percent – a plurality – said IUP administrators need to exert more control over fraternities.

Logan Hullinger, a sophomore journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Clarion.

 

Sidebar 1: Qualtrics survey results

The data below report IUP students’ views on a possible correlation between fraternity life and sexual assaults on campus. The results are from the nine-item questionnaire (see sidebar, below) that was emailed to 1,000 undergraduate students on Nov. 24. The survey closed on Dec. 3.

From 95 responses (response rate: 9.5 percent; margin of error: 2.9 percent), the following findings emerged:

  • 84 percent of students said they have attended a fraternity-sponsored event/party at IUP.
  • 19 percent of students said they were charged a fee to attend the event. Of those, 7 percent of females said they paid. Among males, 79 percent said they paid admission.
  • 48 percent of students said they were offered an already-opened beverage while at the event.
  • 30 percent of students said they witnessed unwelcome sexual behavior at the event.
  • 49 percent of students agree that fraternities contribute to a sexual behavior problem at IUP.
  • 46 percent of students agree that IUP should exert more control over fraternities on campus.

 

Sidebar 2:  Reported sex assaults involving IUP students, fall 2015

INDIANA — Police reported six cases of forcible sexual assault during IUP’s 2015 fall semester as of Dec. 20, according to local news media reports. Below are the reported cases in chronological order.

  • Aug. 28 — alleged rape at Sigma Chi fraternity house on South Seventh Street, Indiana, Pa., adjacent to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.
  • Aug. 30 — alleged rape in Stephenson Hall on IUP’s campus.
  • Aug. 31 – alleged rape at the Punxsutawney Living Center on IUP’s Punxsutawney campus.
  • Sept. 7 — alleged rape at IUP’s Suites on Pratt.
  • Sept. 13 — alleged rape at IUP’s Putt Hall.
  • Oct. 10 — alleged rape at Cedar Point, a Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park, where the accused was fundraising for IUP’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

 

Sidebar 3: Qualtrics survey questionnaire

The following text is from a nine-item questionnaire emailed to 1,000 IUP undergraduate students on Nov. 24:

Logan Hullinger, a sophomore journalism student at IUP, is researching a possible correlation between sexual violence on campus and fraternity life. The research is prompted by the Aug. 28 alleged rape at Sigma Chi fraternity on South Seventh Street and the Oct. 10 alleged rape at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, where a Phi Kappa Tau member was accused.

This survey is being done to supplement an article for a News Reporting class taught by professor David Loomis, Ph.D. This survey is nine questions long and will take less than five minutes to complete. Dr. Loomis can be reached at doloomis@iup.edu.

The survey data may be published in The HawkEye, an award-winning online newspaper published in the IUP journalism department. All respondents’ identities will remain anonymous to both the public and the reporter.

If you would like to contact Hullinger to speak or be interviewed on the subject, please leave your full name and email address at the end of the survey.

  1. What is your gender?

Male
Female
Transgender

  1. What year are you in college?

Freshman
Sophomore
Junior
Senior

  1. Have you ever attended a party/social gathering at one of IUP’s fraternities?

Yes
No

  1. Were you charged a fee to attend the event?

Yes
No

  1. While at the event, were you offered an already opened beverage, whether alcoholic or not?

Yes
No

  1. Have you witnessed any sort of unwelcome sexual behavior while at a fraternity?

Yes
No

  1. Do you believe fraternities contribute to sexual behavior problems at IUP?

Yes
No
No opinion

  1. Do you believe IUP administrators should exert more control over fraternities?

Yes
No
No opinion

  1. If you would like to contact Hullinger to speak or be interviewed on the subject, please leave your full name and email address. Thank you.

 

 

Sidebar 4: Where to go for help regarding cases of sexual assault

Indiana University of Pennsylvania provides services for students affected by sexual assault:

IUP lists several outlets to reach out for help.

The IUP Haven Project, Alice Paul House and Counseling Center all provide resources for those who have been involved in cases of sexual violence.

The Counseling Center
Suites on Maple East, G31 901 Maple Street
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, PA 15705
Phone: 724-357-2621

Office of Student Conduct
Ruddock Hall, Suite G11 1099 Maple St. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Phone: 724-357-1264

Alice Paul House
P.O. Box 417 Indiana, Pa. 15701
Phones: 800.435.7249 – Hotline
724.349.5744 – Administration
724.349.4444 – Hotline

Haven Project
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Web: http://www.iup.edu/haven/default.aspx
Sidebar 5: For more information

For more information on fraternity life and sexual assaults on campus, contact the following sources:

Michelle S. Fryling
Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations
Communications & Media Relations
316 Sutton Hall
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa 15705
Phone: 724-357-2302 (office)
Email: Michelle.Fryling@iup.edu

Betsy Sarneso
Assistant Director for Student Life/Greek Life and Student Engagement
Center for Student Life/Greek Life and Student Engagement
303 Pratt Hall
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa 15705
Phone: 724-357-2598 (office)
Email: esarneso@iup.edu

Valerie Mercado
Compliance Officer/Title IX Coordinator
Office of Social Equity
B17 Delaney Hall,
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa 15705
Phone: 724-357-3402 (office)
Email: Valerie.Mercado@iup.edu

University Police
Kevin Thelen,
Chief
University Towers 850 Maple St.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, Pa. 15705
Phone: 724-357-2141; (724) 357-3201
Fax: 724-357-2104
Email: Kevin.Thelen@iup.edu
Web: http://www.iup.edu/police/

Indiana Borough Police Department
William C. Sutton,
Chief and borough manager
80 North Eighth St. Indiana, Pa 15701 (724) 349 – 2121
Email: wsutton@indianaboro.com
Web: http://www.indianaboro.com/departments/Police%20Dept/police%20department.htm

Patrick Dougherty
Indiana County District Attorney
825 Philadelphia St,
Indiana, Pa. 15701
Phone:(724) 465-3835

 

 

 

 

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