Sororities unite for Grand Chapter, speaker

Pam Carmasine

In place of individual chapter meetings usually held on Monday nights, each of Northwestern’s 12 Panhellenic sororities convened for the first Grand Chapter meeting of the quarter to integrate education more into social life on campus.

For its first “high-profile speaker” event, The NU Panhellenic Association executive board brought Andrea Cooper, a Florida State University alumna in Delta Delta Delta who speaks to college students across the country. She spoke at Ryan Family Auditorium, which was almost filled to capacity, about facing depression after traumas like rape.

But for the first half hour, she entertained the Greek community with stories of how she explains what she does for a living – speaking about depression for a living is usually a conversation killer with the “over-40” crowd, she said to laughter – her melodramatic response to her daughter pledging outside of her own chapter, and a pep rally-like roll call of each sorority in attendance. The brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon also showed their support, nestled in the back of the auditorium.

The mood turned more serious as Andrea Cooper addressed why the Greek community was there, for “Kristin’s Story.” Her daughter, Kristin Cooper, had been a victim of acquaintance rape. One day in August 1995, Kristin went to an apartment to watch a movie with a group of friends, but chose to remain with a male friend she had known for a while after the rest of the group had left. Subsequently she was raped, but did not go to police counselors, or her parents, afterwards.

Andrea Cooper said the reason why she tells her daughter’s story is to help prevent suicides due to depression faced by many college students.

“She had a plan and she was going to get relief,” Andrea Cooper said. “Her depression got so bad that soon her whole (sorority) house knew.”

Victims of this kind of sexual assault can experience emotional and physical trauma, and even post-traumatic stress, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime. One in four college girls have been the victims of rape or attempted rape, and a woman is four times more likely to be raped by someone she knows than by a stranger.

Several months after the rape, on New Year’s Eve, Andrea Cooper came home with her husband at 2 a.m. to find that their 20-year-old daughter had committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“You couldn’t have a nightmare so bad as that,” Cooper said. “I got halfway to her and was almost certain she wasn’t breathing – I had a panic attack.”

The audience sat in reverential silence as pictures of a pretty young girl on a ski trip, and before her senior awards night, were projected on a large screen. The audience turned more attentive as Andrea Cooper read aloud a passage from her daughter’s journal, to cite the effect Kristin’s rape had on her ultimate decision to take her own life.

“I feel as though I am plagued with a disease,” reads one line of a poem written by Kristin. Becca Cadoff, vice president of education for PHA, said she hoped for more events like this to foster “greater Panhellenic spirit and eduction at the same time.”

“A lot of events are chapter against chapter, versus one unified Panhellenic event,” the SESP senior said.

Ali Melnyk, president of PHA at NU who helped organize the event, said she was impressed by how much material Andrea Cooper covered within the two hours.

“It addresses so many different issues,” the Weinberg senior said. “There’s not much open dialogue about it on campus now.”

Reflecting on how she could be so cheerful when she continually deals with such traumatic subject matter, Cooper said that she is still “so full of hope,” and that she wishes her message reaches students who may internalize their depression.

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