Interfraternity Council, ASG Senate condemn walkout before vote on sexual assault accountability resolution


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Speaker of the Senate Nehaarika Mulukutla speaks at a meeting earlier this quarter. Mulukutla sent an email to senators Thursday after a walkout by an IFC senator and substitute senators prevented a vote Wednesday.

Jonah Dylan, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Interfraternity Council executive board released a statement Thursday criticizing an IFC senator and three substitute senators for walking out of Associated Student Government Senate on Wednesday before voting on a resolution regarding sexual assault.

IFC senator Mike Seethaler and three substitute senators walked out after Senate decided to vote on the resolution in a roll call manner. The resolution calls for an immediate cease-and-desist order from the University toward Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the other unnamed fraternity currently being investigated for allegations of sexual assault and possible druggings. It also calls for students found responsible of sexual misconduct to be removed from campus and for an increase to funding for the Center of Awareness, Response and Education.

A total of 25 senators and substitutes were in attendance at Senate on Wednesday when the vote for the resolution was called. When the four senators walked out, quorum was lost, forcing a delay of the vote. The IFC statement said the four senators are members of SAE. One of the three substitutes was representing Panhellenic Association, while the other two were representing IFC.

“We were in no way involved in the decision of the IFC senators,” the IFC executive board said in the statement. “It is a direct insult to the hours of debate, amendments, and discussion that occurred between the senators, and an insult to the survivors of sexual assault who look to ASG to represent their safety and best interests.”

The statement said the board had sent its endorsement of the resolution to ASG when it was proposed. It added that it will take future action to help the resolution pass.

The resolution responds to the University notifying students on Feb. 6 that the administration had received an anonymous report alleging four female students were possibly given a date rape drug at SAE on Jan. 21. The report alleges that two of the students believe they were also sexually assaulted, according to an email to students from Chief of Police Bruce Lewis.

Lewis said in the email that the University also received an anonymous report Feb. 3 alleging another female student was sexually assaulted, potentially with the use of a date rape drug, after attending an event at a second, unnamed fraternity house the previous night.
The Sexual Harassment Prevention Office is investigating the reports, the email said.

Seethaler told The Daily in an email that the substitute senators decided not to vote because of Senate’s “unconventional” choice to conduct a roll call vote — which records and publishes voters’ names — instead of a standard anonymous vote.

“The students who left and broke quorum were only acting as replacements … so they did not feel comfortable attaching their name to such a serious vote,” he said in the email.

Seethaler said at the Senate meeting yesterday that SAE had been the “subject of harassment” and that “death threats” were found on the internet in response to the University’s investigation.

After the walkout, Panhellenic Association senator Lauren Thomas told The Daily that PHA will only use its members as substitutes from now on. All the PHA senators had planned to vote “yes”’ on the resolution, she said.

In an email to senators early Thursday morning, Speaker of the Senate Nehaarika Mulukutla emphasized the importance of attendance.

“Using quorum, Senate procedure, or anything else in the world as an ultimatum and weapon to threaten Senate into voting a particular manner is grossly inappropriate,” Mulukutla said in the email.

ASG President Christina Cilento also expressed disappointment in the lack of attendance. She said there will be more action taken in the future and that Senate needs to implement a better system for substitute senators.

“If we’re consistently at the point where a voting bloc of senators leaving will force us to end a Senate meeting, then that’s not an effective place to be,” Cilento told The Daily.

She also said she was disappointed senators chose to walk out instead of following through with Senate’s debate on the resolution.

“The least effective thing we can do is to disengage from the process if we’re not happy with it,” she said.

Senate will revisit the resolution next week.

Matthew Choi contributed reporting.

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