Greeks push activism to crowds at cookouts

Becky Bowman

Northwestern Greeks showed strong support for Take Back the Night by encouraging attendance and hosting barbecues, annual actions that members said allow them to confront the perceived connection between sexual assault and the Greek system.

Weinberg junior Beki Park, who organized last year’s barbecues, said many rapes and sexual assaults are Greek-related.

“It’s a huge statement when the Greek system comes together to support this,” said Beki Park, president of Women’s Coalition and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Panhellenic Association President Peggy Yu said the Greek system’s high level of accountability often leads to the publicity of rapes or sexual assaults involving Greek students.

“People are more likely to hear about what goes on in the the Greek system than what goes on off-campus,” said Yu, a Speech junior.

Interfraternity Council President Phil Ordway said that while names are not released in the cases of rapes and sexual assaults that occur in residence halls, the names of Greek students in such situations usually surface around campus because such a large community is involved.

“A lot of people at other schools, not just Northwestern, look down on the Greek system as being connected to rape and sexual assault,” said Libby Taranta, a Weinberg freshman and member of Theta.

Yu said another goal of the barbecues is to make women and men feel comfortable about attending TBTN together. So many students are involved in the Greek system that it makes sense for IFC, Panhel and National Pan-Hellenic Council to host TBTN events, she said.

Panhel and IFC pair fraternities with sororities for the barbecues, which usually are the first of several joint tailgates in the spring.

“It’s important to show our respect,” Ordway said. “This isn’t just a female problem.”

Ayan Bagchi, IFC vice president of programming, said 50 to 60 fraternity members attended banner-making sessions Wednesday night. Bagchi attributed the turnout, which he called “the best ever,” to the publicity created by Panhel and IFC.

Empower, an offshoot of Panhel that focuses on women’s issues, helped with that publicity. The group went to chapter meetings at fraternity houses last week to give short presentations about the importance of TBTN, said Rebecca Stamey-White, a Weinberg sophomore and assistant director of Empower.

Two thousand safety cards designed by Empower that list transportation, rape crisis, AIDS crisis and clinic phone numbers will be available next week, Stamey-White said.

Mufu Johnson, a Weinberg sophomore and member of Phi Delta Theta, said he and his fraternity brothers wanted to support TBTN because many of them have younger sisters.

“When you think about the stuff that could happen, it makes you appreciate it,” Johnson said.

Rory Rauch, a McCormick senior who marched his freshman year and even bought a T-shirt, estimated that 20 percent of his house would attend the march. Although he still supports TBTN, Rauch went home after dinner.

“I have a lot of work to do,” he said. “It just fell on the wrong day.”