Whitman College Tekes Take a Stand Against Sexual Violence
Nestled in the notoriously friendly small town of Walla Walla—a community located in the southeast corner of Washington state—resides the small, liberal arts school of Whitman College. Rooted in the principles of critical thought and academic rigor, Whitman has earned its recognition as one of the best higher education institutions in the United States.
“Whitman has what it takes to provide an education that goes beyond the classroom,” reads the college’s website. “[Students] climb mountains, travel to far-off corners and advocate for social justice. They care about community and aim to become citizens of the world.”
As Tau Kappa Epsilon’s International Headquarters works to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month throughout April, we found the Alpha-Theta chapter at Whitman College has done far more than climb mountains or travel to far-off corners. These Fraters have taken the initiative to become better citizens of the world through a responsive and energetic program that actively works toward the prevention of sexual violence and the cohesion of a community.
In the spring of 2015, Whitman College’s Panhellenic Association took a proactive approach to better understand the culture of the Greek community on campus. A simple survey was given to each member of all four sororities on campus.
In the survey, sorority members were asked to score their comfort with other fraternities and on campus in general. The purpose of the survey was to find where fraternities could make adjustments to improve the safety and culture for both men and women on campus and at chapter functions.
Pictured (L-R): Jesse Hazzard & Parker Dawson
Following the survey, each of the four fraternity presidents on the Whitman campus were given the results, which included Frater Parker Dawson, Prytanis of the Alpha-Theta chapter.
“When you open yourself up to honest feedback, it can be scary,” says Dawson. “But we found that there is definitely something you can do in response.”
Leading the response was Frater Connor Hood, a senior of the Alpha-Theta chapter. Hood’s initiative to review the survey in its entirety resulted in the creation of a 20-man Sexual Violence Prevention Committee within the chapter.
The survey brought to light that the Alpha-Theta chapter had negative manners it needed to be address regarding the safety of attendees at social functions, as well as a less than favorable image on campus.
“When you hear something like that, you realize that taking action against sexual violence isn’t just necessary when something comes up,” says Dawson. “The way [Connor] described it was recognizing that a problem already exists and further recognizing we had a lot of work we need to do.”
The Alpha-Theta Chapter’s Sexual Violence Prevention Committee made several recommendations for how the chapter could better their risk management and perception on campus.
“We made adjustments from the way in which we managed social events to the way we monitor our own and each others behavior,” says Dawson. The adjustments were as simple as providing better lighting around the chapter house and establishing sober areas and sober brothers during chapter events. Perhaps the most meaningful action taken was the creation of an open dialogue between fraternities that addressed the topic of sexual violence.
Dawson further explains that because the Alpha-Theta chapter simply took the steps to make small, yet meaningful actions to improve their perception, members of the chapter have become leaders on campus in the prevention of sexual violence.
It’s been a year since the survey came out, and Dawson could not be more proud of the Alpha-Theta chapter’s improved image.
“We took a lot of time to reflect on how we were presenting ourselves and our house for people to feel comfortable. Since making those adjustments, our image has had a full turnaround. We’ve become leaders on campus in the topic of sexual violence.”
The story of the Alpha-Theta chapter’s transformation from discomfort to pride is traceable to one turning point, according to Dawson.
“I would describe that survey as the biggest event. Although we didn’t hand it out ourselves, if we knew all that we would accomplish from doing so, we absolutely would have done it.”
Moving forward, Dawson and the Alpha-Theta chapter will continue to advocate for the prevention of sexual violence on the Whitman campus.
Away from the Whitman community, the efforts of the Alpha-Theta chapter will serve as a testament to the ability every group in TKE has in creating a positive change in culture and the prevention of sexual violence.