"Stay inside at night."
That's what the national chapters of many University of Virginia sororities are telling their student-members as a way to handle the growing and rampant problem of sexual assault on campus.
The directive was targeting the school's upcoming Boys' Bid Night on Jan. 31. It's a popular night of parties each year when sorority sisters typical go from fraternity house to fraternity house drinking with their friends, reports the Washington Post.
The National Panhellenic Conference, which counts 16 UVA sororities as members, sent the notifications out on Jan. 20 and requested that its member sororities ban sisters from attending fraternity-related events all weekend. The Cavalier Daily also reports that several chapters have been required to schedule mandatory meeting or social events at the same time as Boys' Bid Night.
This decision comes just days after university administration relieved UVA fraternities and sororities of an activity suspension. The penalty resulted from the sexual assault allegations that garnered national attention just over two months ago thanks to the Rolling Stone article, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA."
Though some of the reporting in that article has been since been discredited, sexual assault on the campuses of American colleges and universities nevertheless remains a rampant problem. However, as the members of these UVA sororities know, this party ban is not the answer.
"This is gender discrimination," fourth-year student Story Hinckley, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, wrote in a petition against the NPC's decision that's been circulating around the campus and has just over 2,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
"Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at UVA, this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects," the Change.org petition states. "It is degrading to Greek women, as it appears that the NPC views us as defenseless and UVA's new fraternal policies as invalid. Allowing the NPC to prevent us from celebrating (what used to be) a tight-knit community sends the message that we are weak."
Women of UVA's Kappa Delta chapter have also been circulating a letter of action and collecting signatures before sending it to the NPC. It reads, in part:
"Sorority women are being used as leverage to change the actions and behaviors of fraternity men. This resolution has misconstrued us as a passive aggregate rather than active agents for change. It has also had the unintended consequence of subjugating women.
"Sororities are organizations founded to empower women. They are, by their very nature, organizations meant to foster strength among their members. They are organizations that inherently promote gender equality. This mandate is diametrically opposed to the values on which our organizations were founded and is contrary to the principles we continue to uphold.
"This solution is not long-term, realistic or sustainable."
The school's fraternities are also unimpressed with the national direction, echoing the sororities' concerns that this non-solution undervalues students' individual abilities to behave responsibility.
"I think fraternity members are frustrated," Inter-Fraternity Council President Ben Gorman wrote in an email to the Cavalier Daily. "Despite supporting, creating and implementing these new [FOA] standards of safety, they have been written off as incapable of being responsible individuals without the chance to demonstrate they can hold safe social events."
"If you were to lock someone in a room for two years, odds are that person would remain safe," Gorman added. "But that's only a Band-Aid solution that assumes people can respect neither themselves nor their peers."
Though UVA claims to be trying to address these problems, they're doing it in a heavy-handed way through this system-wide ban. What's more, it can "be perceived as collective punishment and consequently impede cultural change," Gorman noted. And considering UVA's problematic history with sexual assault, it's very clear how much change is still needed.
h/t Washington Post