Friday, December 1, 2023

Sororities and safety: Reflecting on safety at the university one year after alleged assault case triggered protest

NewsCampus NewsSororities and safety: Reflecting on safety at the university one year after alleged assault case triggered protest

Staff Reporter

Nearly a year after the alleged assault case that targeted a female student at the university, some women on campus express that they still feel unsafe and say the university failed to make any substantial changes. 

Immediately following the publicization of the alleged assault, university students took to the streets of Newark and campus to vocalize their frustrations. Many student organizations took it upon themselves to ensure that proper safety measures were implemented into their policies and operations.  

“The only real difference that I’ve noticed would be in my sorority,” Grace Faulkner, sophomore psychology major and member of Alpha Phi, said. “My sorority sends alerts of news reports or anything sketchy going on in the area. Just this weekend there was a man pretending to be an Uber driver and I was immediately warned to be aware of my surroundings by my sorority sisters.”

Following last year’s protests, the university released an updated safety initiative on Oct. 25, 2021. 

The plan expanded the shuttle service to be offered in the evening hours, and in conjunction with the University of Delaware Police Department (UDPD), an escort service offered between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. through both walking and golf carts. The plan also included a lighting evaluation, which would review the campus blue light system and provide possible additions. 

“The only safety options I know of are the blue lights, but there’s not even any close to my apartment,” Faulkner said.

The map of blue lights found on the UDPD website shows several blue light systems throughout all university campuses. However, there are no blue light systems on any of the most popular streets for off-campus student housing, including East Main Street, where last year’s alleged incident was said to have occurred. 

In a survey conducted by The Review on general female safety at the university, over 64% of the 30 female participants said that they do not feel safe off campus. The 30 women are in different sororities at the university who are exposed to fraternity culture. Additionally, 58% of surveyed women said they do not believe that there has been any significant change in safety on campus. 

Sexual assault is particularly pervasive in Greek life, with members having a higher chance statistically of encountering it than non-active students. VOX reported that sorority women are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women. The LA Times also reported that fraternity men are three times more likely to rape sorority women than non-affiliated students.

Members of the Greek life community at the university have been working to change the narrative surrounding this issue. 

“It became clear that we needed to have a conversation about this,” Caroline Zidek, president of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, said. “We can’t keep letting this not be something that’s brought to our attention because it makes us uncomfortable. Just because things make us uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them and do something about them.”

Zidek remembers how her and the executive board of the sorority made it their goal to encourage communication among their members to ensure safety.

“It was really scary for a lot of people, especially in the Greek life community,” Zidek said.

Zidek aimed to erase the previous standards of leaders brushing conversation of sexual assualt and misconduct under the rug and instead listen to their members’ concerns. Zidek and her team now use an anonymous form where members can express their experiences in a safe place. 

Fraternity and Sorority Leadership & Learning (FSLL), which is part of the Division of Student Life, supports Greek life organizations through its leadership development workshops. This year, FSLL added a new training workshop titled, “Lean on Me: Cultivating a Community that Supports Survivors of Sexual Misconduct.” Prior to these additions, Zidek says that leadership training was more focused on alcohol safety. 

“I think that now it’s way bigger of a subject within the leadership community,” Zidek said. 

Nearing a year since the alleged assault, Zidek expressed her expectations for the university. 
“There’s just so many ways that we are still being affected by it, or people are still being triggered by it honestly,” Zidek said. “And I just think that the responsible thing to do would be to have some type of conversation, some acknowledgment.”




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