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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fraternities are frequently settings for sexual assault

Editor’s note: This is in response to the article “Fraternity suspended,” published in Tuesday’s Daily Lobo. The article is about an alleged criminal sexual penetration that occurred during a party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon on April 1 in violation of the student code of conduct. There is a pending investigation and the fraternity has been suspended until further notice.

Editor,

There are no words that adequately express my outrage over the recent allegations of sexual assault occurring at the New Mexico Tau chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. This is not the first time this organization of “true gentlemen” has been the subject of such a criminal investigation.

This chapter has a long history not only of disrespect towards women, but sexual violence as well. In 2007, one of the chapter’s pledges was arrested for rape of a minor. In 1999, several women filed charges against members for alleged gang rape. And in 2003, I myself was the victim of a sexual assault that took place inside the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. Despite the fact that I pressed criminal charges, the fraternity did not face disciplinary action from the University, nor did my attacker. In fact, after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree that semester, he was readmitted as a graduate student the following fall despite the charges that were pending.

When this was brought to my attention, I was told by University officials that a restraining order could not be enforced on campus, and that I’d have to “remain vigilant.” In addition to having to go out of my way to avoid my rapist, I had to deal with the harassment I faced on campus alone as well. Additionally, I lost my scholarship, and after my petition explaining the situation was denied, I was forced to attend summer school to have it reinstated.

In the 10 years since my assault, I am not convinced that the University of New Mexico has taken any precautions to protect students from sexual assault, particularly on Greek row. For example, visiting sororities and encouraging women to “watch their drinks” does nothing to improve student safety. Rather, it feeds the rape culture that assumes women are solely responsible for not getting sexually assaulted. When I learned this was the University’s response to these recent allegations, I was infuriated, but not surprised that the institution continues to slap Band-Aids on symptoms while neglecting to find the problem, which, in this case, is a group of men who lack a moral compass.

I encourage the University of New Mexico — just as I have encouraged universities across this country throughout the past decade — to focus anti-rape programming on the clear message to young men that sex without consent is wrong. Period. And while I’m not naive to the fact that not all rapes are committed by men, and not all victims are women, when it comes to fraternity members, they need to learn that taking advantage of a woman — regardless of whether she’s been drinking, or whether she’s even your girlfriend — has major legal consequences.

In the past few years, we have all watched several national fraternities — Kappa Sigma, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Lambda Chi Alpha — be removed from campus for infractions ranging from alcohol abuse to hazing, and yet, despite a proven sociological pattern of violence toward women at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, their presence remains at the University of New Mexico.

And it’s unacceptable.

As an alumna of the University of New Mexico, and as the survivor of a sexual assault at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, I sincerely ask President Robert Frank, Robert Burford, and the Greek Life office to send a strong message to the campus community that sexual assault will not be tolerated, and permanently suspend the charter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of New Mexico.
Enough is enough.

Amanda Kathleen Kane
UNM alumna