London

More accountability needed for frats accused of sexual violence, student leader says

In the wake of allegations that a woman was drugged at a Zeta Psi party, the outgoing president of Western University's student council says it's time for fraternities to step up and do more than just offer verbal platitudes about ending sexual violence by its members.

London police are investigating after a woman says she was drugged at a Zeta Psi party

The Zeta Psi fraternity on Mill Street at Talbot Street in London, Ont., is under investigation after women say they were drugged at a party there. (Kate Dubinski/CBC )

In the wake of allegations that a woman was drugged at a Zeta Psi party, the outgoing president of Western University's student council says it's time for fraternities to step up and do more than just offer verbal platitudes about ending sexual violence by its members. 

"I don't think there's adequate accountability measures in place right now," said Zamir Fakirani, speaking about how frats and sororities, at Western referred to as Greek Life, have not put "actions into words." 

"We don't ever see gender-based violence claims made to Greek Life organizations treated with seriousness, nor do we really see any rehabilitation or punitive measures taken by the Greek system. I think what that does inadvertently is signal to others that either this behaviour is okay, or it's encouraged. Without accountability I don't think we're going to see change." 

Earlier this week, CBC News shared a story of a woman who went to a party at Zeta Psi, located at Mill and Talbot streets, in January. Her doctor believes she was drugged at that party and a drug test revealed the presence of a drug in her system that she didn't take. 

There hasn't really been a meaningful or transparent conversation from Greek life about what they're doing to address not just rape culture, but toxic masculinity within their systems.- Zamir Fakirani, USC president

London police are investigating, and Zeta Psi's local chapter has refused to comment. Its international governing body says it takes the allegations seriously but wouldn't comment further or answer follow-up questions about what it's doing to investigate the incident or stop such things from happening in the future. 

"Why don't we start with making sure there's pathways for survivors to coming forward, that there's training for new recruits so that they understand the notion of consent? Why aren't there harm reduction materials and programming at your events?" Fakirani told CBC's London Morning

The January party happened four months after allegations of sexual assault and druggings at parties in September and a massive student walkout to protest sexual violence on campus. 

"We've had so many conversations this year about how we can meaningfully address rape culture on campus and we saw so many students walk out but in the Greek system, we haven't really seen those words reflected in action. There hasn't really been a meaningful or transparent conversation from Greek Life about what they're doing to address not just rape culture, but toxic masculinity within their systems."

Outgoing Student Council President Zamir Fakirani says fraternities are not doing enough to prevent sexual violence at Western University. (Submitted by Zamir Fakrani)

Fakirani said he's had sorority members reach out to him to tell them they feel unsafe and that they may leave their sororities because they don't reflect their values anymore. 

The fraternities and sororities are not officially recognized by Western University and special privileges, such as the ability to recruit on campus, were taken away by the University Student Council (USC) earlier this year. 

Frat members must think critically

"I'm hoping that this is a turning point for Greek Life in the way that orientation week was a turning point for Western," Fakirani said. 

"I think when we allow a perpetrator of gender-based violence to be let off the hook and when we don't provide a survivor with the support that they need, it sends a very subtle signal that this behaviour will not be treated seriously, and I think that does allow for more violence."

"I'm really hope that this news that CBC reported encourages members of Greek Life to think critically about the role they play, either directly or indirectly, in contributing to a culture of gender-based violence at their organization."

Repeated requests for interviews with Zeta Psi's local and international leadership have not been answered. In a brief statement earlier this week, the organization's executive director said the drugging allegations are "antithetical" to the fraternity's values. 

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