Students Form Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, Protest Outside Task Force Meeting
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Monday, April 22nd, to correct a factual inaccuracy. Men’s basketball head coach Landry Kosmalski was present at the Task Force meeting.
On Friday, April 19, at 1:15 pm, about 100 students gathered in a Parrish hallway in anticipation of a Student Social Events and Community Standards Task Force meeting to demand the Task Force recommend a termination of fraternity leases to President Valerie Smith. This protest was organized by the newly formed Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, which held its first meeting on Thursday, April 18th. A full livestream of the protest can be found here.
The Task Force was originally created after the Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life last spring recommended its creation along with a temporary moratorium on fraternity leases. The recommendation for a moratorium was denied, but the Task Force was created and asked this fall by President Valerie Smith to “critically examine social life on campus—including Greek life and programming in campus social spaces.” The Task Force, which intends on releasing recommendations to President Smith by the end of April, had not yet held a meeting dedicated solely to discussing fraternities on campus at the time of the protest.
Amal Haddad ‘22, Organizing for Survivors (O4S) organizer, said the protest was held because “there have been committees in 2013, in 2014, last year, and this year. Nothing has changed. Committees are not helping us change.”
Students arrived with posters detailing anonymous accounts of sexual violence in the fraternity and expressing the demand for an end to fraternity violence. Signs read things like, “Frat boys’ right to party vs survivor safety: you choose,” “I have begged admin to close frat bedrooms for 4 years. Swat is responsible for every assault in those rooms,” “Pubsafe protects perpetrators not survivors,” and “The college decided a student who was found guilty of sexual assault should be moved off campus… he was moved into fraternity housing.”
For fifteen minutes before the 1:30 Task Force meeting, students chanted, clapped, and stomped outside of the Dean’s conference room on the second floor of Parrish Hall.
David Buckley ‘21 attended the action “because I have a responsibility to the community and I have a responsibility to be uplifting the voices of those who deserve to be heard [and …] it’s important to show the administration and the Task Force that we are here and we need to be heard and that the existence of the frats is unacceptable.”
Carolyn Cheng ‘22 commented, “I want the Task Force and the administration to actually protect its students. Being here with other people who feel the same way is really the only thing that’s making me feel better. It showed me that this won’t be blown over in a day, people still really care.”
Ultimately, the members of the Task Force present for the meeting were co-chair and board member David Singleton ‘68, co-chair Professor Lisa Meeden, ITS director of support services Aixa Pomales, O4S member Olivia Smith ‘21, Phi Psi member Arjun Madan ‘21, Charlotte Pohl ‘21, Dean Tomoko Sakomura, men’s basketball head coach Landry Kosmalski, and Dean Shá Duncan Smith. Alumni Council president and ex officio member of the Board of Managers Emily Anne Nolte Jacobstein ‘07 and Dean Jim Terhune called in to the meeting. Three members were missing from the meeting: Professor David Cohen, director of health and wellness services Alice Holland, and Board of Managers member H. Vincent Poor.
As members of the Task Force arrived at the meeting, student protestors continued chanting, clapping, and stomping. Once most members had arrived, students read from a prepared statement. The statement, in full, can be found here. After cheers and applause from the protestors, Singleton introduced himself as a co-chair of the Task Force and alum from the class of 1968, then thanked students for “sharing this information and these views” and denied students’ request for an immediate decision from the Task Force. He said, “We will not finish with our work today, so if you’re looking for a report from the meeting, I am sorry to tell you we will not have one today. That will be coming in the very near future and we need to ask you to give us time to mull over all this information that we’ve heard and to arrive at our recommendations.”
Morgin Goldberg ‘19, O4S organizer, asked in response, “Mr. Singleton, what else do you need?” Singleton responded, “We need to have the Task Force together for a discussion.” Goldberg furthered, “What is there to discuss?” Shelby Dolch ‘21, O4S organizer, added, “We have 117 pages, sir,” referring to the leaked documents from the Phi Psi Historical Archives, published in both the Phoenix and Voices last Thursday. Singleton responded, “I’m aware of that.” JJ Balisanyuka-Smith ‘21, O4S organizer, asked, “Sir, have you or have you not been a member of one of these two fraternities?” Singleton, a Phi Psi fraternity alum, answered, “yes,” and the crowd erupted into a chant of “time’s up!”
Meeden then introduced herself as co-chair and commented, “We take the charge that we’ve been given extremely seriously. We, too, are disgusted by the documents that have been put forth.” An unknown audience member responded, “then do something.”
Meeden replied, “We are trying to, we’re meeting today to come up with recommendations. We cannot make a decision today. […] I know it’s hard to be patient with the process.” Many in tears, student activists started chanting “protect us!” and the present members of the committee walked away to begin their meeting. Goldberg remarked later of the Task Force’s response, “it’s saying, [the leaked archives and student testimony] isn’t good enough, and that flies in the face of people’s experiences of pain. The pain was not just from what the documents contain but really about the college’s protection of fraternities and refusal to act in any moral way.”
About fifty students stayed in the hallway intending to wait out the Task Force’s meeting and to confront them once more once it had ended. Andrés Pérez Correa ‘22 said of the Task Force’s response, “It’s bullshit […] I’m staying [in the hallway during their meeting] because of that response. That response was just infuriating, I can’t stand for that. I can’t just move along with my day, knowing that they want to just continue ignoring us for the rest of the semester. I don’t want to live the rest of my time here knowing the frats are hurting people and knowing the administration is sweeping it under the rug.”
After an hour and a half, members of the Task Force left the room one by one, waiting a few minutes between each member leaving. Goldberg said of the Task Force’s decision not to immediately release recommendations to end fraternity leasing, “It’s inadequate. We mean it when we say truly, what else do you need? The committee is supposed to weigh different pieces of information and deliberate, and from our perspective, there’s really nothing left to deliberate. I understand that they have to preserve the committee – but they don’t, really. They can make a moral decision outside of their bureaucratic obligations, and they chose not to.”
Goldberg also noted that O4S and the recently created Coalition to End Fraternity Violence is not done with mobilizing around fraternities: “We don’t want to do this, we wish the college would make the easy decision, but they won’t. Speaking to these Task Force members today showed us that we will have to keep escalating and force the college to make the moral decision.”