With serious allegations, silence not the answerPublished: February 1, 2013
In seeking to protect their reputations, following allegations of sexual assault, Greek life organizations at Brandeis have already destroyed them in our view.
We admit, we don’t know what happened or didn’t happen or might have happened at their off-campus party earlier this month. But we do know that facing accusations of sexual assault, their urgent advice and response can be summarized in one word.
Because, silence, not discussion, they wrote in an email to all Greek life members, is the best response to protecting their reputation. No one in reasonable and fair judgment would connect allegations about an individual incident to the character or integrity of an organization. But the response sent last week is far more telling of such reputations and images.
Community discussion, not silence, is the answer. We aren’t asking fraternity and sorority members to talk with the media.
But we are asking them to cultivate a discussion about sexual assault, about consent and sexual relations involving alcohol and parties. Surely they are right to prevent the spreading of rumors and gossip about the incident. But there is a way to discuss the issue without creating rumors.
We are greatly disappointed by the tone of their message. Not one out of the 1,000 words in their email makes reference to the possible victim in this incident.
It’s no secret as to why cases of sexual assault are underreported on college campuses. Victims, often traumatized enough about the alleged assault, find a bureaucratic system of reporting the case quite burdensome and scary. That, coupled with pressure from peers and societal stigma, makes it even more difficult to report.
We don’t mean to issue a critique of Greek life in general. While we believe strongly that such organizations should not be formally recognized by Brandeis because the core values of openness and social exclusion differ too much, we don’t deny their significant and meaningful contributions to this community through philanthropy and social causes.
As this editorial board wrote last year following its story on allegations of sexual assault, the priority in these cases must be about student safety and fostering community discussions.
The solutions to addressing issues of sexual assault come from speaking, not silence.