This article was written by Monica Lockett and researched by Dylan Lawton
Content warning: this story references sexual assault, sexual harassment and substance use.
“I mean that’s with all Greek Life at ULeth, they market themselves as not being Greek Life like you’d see in the [United] States or in the movies. I’m sure that’s the same with Greek Life around the globe, but here for sure, they say, ‘oh, we’re different’, and then anything that doesn’t fit within that, they definitely try to minimize and hide.”
Fellowship. Leadership. Scholarship. Service.
Character. Culture. Courage.
Leadership. Mentorship. Friendship. Academia. Charity.
These buzzwords make up the pillars and mottos of the three organizations representing Greek Life at the University of Lethbridge. There’s the international fraternity, Kappa Sigma (Omicron Xi chapter), international sorority Kappa Beta Gamma (Alpha Iota chapter), and local sorority Delta Eta Iota.
Students may recognize Greek Life from their heightened presence during club rush week, Kappa Sigma’s annual head shave fundraising event, and other initiatives spearheaded by the sororities, such as garage sale fundraisers and softball classics.
Greek Life on campus is marketed as a way to connect with like-minded students who are interested in making lifelong friends, bettering themselves and their community, and share common aspirations and goals. The groups work hard to maintain a positive image in the community and actively seek to mitigate negative press as a way to protect the organization’s image.
Executives from the organizations that make up Greek Life are adamant that they do not embody the stereotypes commonly associated with fraternities and sororities, such as excessive partying, hazing, and toxic masculinity, among others. But some members within Greek Life feel differently.
The Meliorist has spoken with several Greek Life members about recent incidents and how this has impacted their view of the organization. Each source highlighted the need for transparency and accountability within Greek Life, and acknowledged a rampant culture of toxic behaviour that continues to go unaddressed. These sources asked not to have their names included in this story, but allowed us to refer to them as Greek Life members and use their pronouns.
Harassment at Parties
One example that arose consistently in our conversations with Greek Life members was the impression that inappropriate sexual behaviours (such as violence, harassment and/or assault) that occur at Greek Life parties are not adequately addressed by executives. A Greek Life member says she has heard from many other women who have experienced some form of assault at their parties, but claims nothing is done about these incidents.
“These are things that you hear about word of mouth. This is never brought up. If it’s brought up in [Greek Life] meetings, it’s,’oh, if you feel like someone’s assaulted you, you can talk to us about that’, but there’s no followup,” says a sorority member.
She adds that there is no mention on how you can receive help following an assault or how to address it in a way that makes meaningful change within the organizations. “It’s just, ‘oh, well you can talk to me if you feel bad’. They’d say that if you broke up with your boyfriend. And I feel like those are very different things,” she adds.
“That’s why I avoid [Greek Life] parties, not because I don’t want to be non-cognizant of what’s happening, but I do see these things happening and I do see girls being put in [uncomfortable] situations,” says a fraternity member.
“So I feel like there’s a time where they just want to sweep it under the rug a little bit.”
He adds that the vast majority of men do not continue to pursue women when their advances are rejected, but says that some individuals create issues when they continue to project themselves. The member says he has acknowledged this to Greek Life executives, but nothing has been done within the organization to address it.
“It’s [like], ‘hey, we’ll look into it’ and that’s it. So I feel like there’s a time where they just want to sweep it under the rug a little bit,” he says, adding that the organization will then work to protect their own image. “Yes, it does take one person to ruin the image of everybody, but at the same time, that one person has to be dealt with,” he adds.
The Meliorist spoke with the Grandmaster of Kappa Sigma Omicron Xi, Alexander Dalrymple, about the concerns raised by our sources. Dalrymple acknowledged the culture of sexual violence on campuses, but said it is not a big problem here. “I think that there’s an issue with all college and university campuses with sexual violence, and it’s really an unfortunate issue. I don’t think that this is a prevalent issue within Greek Life.”
“The issue with being in an organization like a fraternity is [that] you kind of have that spotlight on you all the time. It’s something where, when it does happen, it’s really unfortunate,” he says, adding that the culture that Greek Life possess is one of “safety and acceptance”.
Dalrymple is adamant in saying he doesn’t condone misconduct or assault and says the organization takes “proactive measures” to ensure these types of things don’t happen, such as hosting regular consent workshops and having several “sober bros” at parties who wear fluorescent pinnies and help out if situations arise.
“We do everything in our power to break the stigma surrounding fraternities … We really go above and beyond to avoid these kinds of things.”
We also sent questions to Gemma Oxley, the President of the Kappa Beta Gamma Alpha Iota organization, who echoed Dalrymple’s sentiments, adding that all Greek Life organizations work to create a community where members feel safe and protected and individuals are treated with respect. “To say sexual violence systemically happens around Greek Life members works directly against that goal, and only further perpetuates unfair stereotypes about Greek Life,” says Oxley.
The Meliorist also reached out to Amanda Young, the President of Delta Eta Iota. Young said these may be perceived issues by people outside of Greek Life, but says issues such as sexual harassment or assault are rare. “We’re a community that tries our hardest to look out for each other. When such issues are brought forth we do our best to handle them from offering support or setting repercussions for all parties involved,” says Young.
Greek Life’s Judicial Process
A sorority member we spoke with recalled an incident from last semester where a prospective fraternity member exhibited inappropriate behaviour at a party.
“This year there was one pledge for the fraternity who assaulted a number of girls, and they still initiated him into the fraternity, even though they were aware of this issue before that. They chose to have him be part of them anyways, which shows that they might pretend they’re gentlemen, but that’s not the thing.”
When asked about this incident, Dalrymple said that the member was given a punishment that all organizations were content with, and if people were still unhappy with it, he was not made aware of that.
Another member from a sorority says these types of incidents are “definitely a problem” within Greek Life. “With the guys, something like this happens and they’ll let it slide, they’ll give them more of a slap on the wrist and then they’ll bury it. Bury the hell out of it,” she says.
Our sources emphasized that these incidents stem from a few members within Greek Life, and are not representative of the organization as a whole. But, a sorority member says those in higher-up positions within Greek Life often don’t make it known to other members when inappropriate behaviour is occurring.
“You got the girls that have had stuff happen to them and they’re not saying anything. And when they do, they’re told to shut up and take it, which sucks. And if it’s happening to the guys, then it’s the same thing, just backwards,” she says. She adds that emotional support is available for members who have been affected by assault or harassment but says no one encourages them to seek formal justice against their aggressor.
If someone within the Greek Life organization has a complaint and wants it addressed through formal measures, they are given the option to file a complaint with their respective organization’s judicial committee. Each organization within Greek Life has this committee, comprised of several members within the organization. There is also an overarching Greek Life judicial committee for those who wish to file complaints against the organization as a whole. However, it is evident from our conversations with Greek Life members that this process is not as effective as it has been made out to be. The onus is often placed on the complainant to properly file a grievance and subsequently make their case to the appropriate judicial committee, who will then rule in favour of the accuser or the defender.
“I think [Greek Life] needs to take more action on when that kinda stuff happens and they need to realize that if something like that happens, it’s not up to them to punish the person. It’s up to the police. Which is largely the issue, they take this stuff into their hands, they try and prevent girls who speak forward or speak up from actually going to the police. They’ll say, ‘no, don’t go to the police, we’ll deal with this internally, we don’t want the integrity of the Brother to be shattered’,” adds a sorority member.
“They’ll say, ‘no, don’t go to the police, we’ll deal with this internally, we don’t want the integrity of the Brother to be shattered’.”
However, Dalrymple says this is 100% false, adding that he “strongly encourages” people to go to the authorities if a complaint does not end in favour of the accuser.
“Because at the end of the day, the distinction that needs to be made is that [Greek Life is] an organization, and unfortunately we’re not an authority. If something as serious as sexual assaults [happen], you should go to the police about it and you should go and get that dealt with in a court of law because it’s not okay.”
The Meliorist obtained a copy of Kappa Sigma’s grievance form from 2019. What stood out was that the onus is on the “grievant” to identify all relevant Greek Life statutes and/or regulations pertinent to their complaint. However, these statutes do not appear to be readily available to just any Greek Life member. The form itself notes that, “the grievance procedure and statements made on this form do not include all the rights available to a grievant. Consequently, Bylaws XI.4 through XI.6 provide direction for the hearing procedures and appeals.”
The fraternity member that we spoke to acknowledged that the grievance process isn’t as straightforward as it could be. “The flaw that we’re noticing now is that it doesn’t have that transparency. I believe that there is now the notion [that] the majority of complaints are just from Greek Life. So, that’s internalized in a way being like, ‘well, if you guys have your own complaint process off you go’,” he says.
“But there are times when [a] person that’s not a Greek Life member might attend this party. So, when you are at that party and something happens to you, [you] don’t know who to reach out to and that’s where you have that lack of transparency,” he adds.
There are no forms or bylaws on the Kappa Sigma website, or any of the sororities’ websites that indicate how an outsider would go about filing a complaint with the organization. When pointed out, Dalrymple said it’s a fair critique.
“We have a whole website that lists our entire [Executive Council] and who’s on it. So, if someone wants to go and file a grievance, our faces are right on there, it lists our position there. When it’s anonymous, that’s when it gets a bit tricky, because they’re going to have to come to us directly or they can send us an anonymous email too, because our contact information is on there,” he said.
Dalrymple says he controls the email listed on the Kappa Sigma website and those who see the messages are restricted to the Executive Council. “Then, for example, if you don’t want the private information to be released to most people, it might be a good idea to say, “hey, who do I speak to about private matters in your organization?’ Then reach out for a general question and we would be more than happy to direct you to where to go from there,” Dalrymple adds.
“I think if people are nervous about going into detail, that’s totally understandable, they can always ask ‘who do I talk to, what’s the best method?’ and we will always tell you. That’s a fair critique and I can see why you’d feel that way,” he says.
Oxley says their organization is transparent where transparency is due and adds that they have “many avenues” for members to file grievances. “I make sure to keep a very open relationship with all my girls so they know they can come to me with anything. As for the public, we have my email posted on our social media which I am always checking, and the rest of my executive council is always free and willing to talk,” she adds.
Young says that any grievances that are filed with Delta Eta Iota are dealt with as promptly as possible and that there is a “level of trust” held between the Greek Life organizations to uphold agreed-upon repercussions for their respective members. “As such, our organization is not transparent when it comes to reprimanding our members, unless deemed appropriate, because all our judicial files require a level confidentiality much like a business’ Human Resources department,” Young says.
Dalrymple says this hasn’t been an issue in his organization yet, but says it’s something they can improve on, as the process may not seem as open as it actually is. He adds that they should make it “completely transparent”.
“Usually the people that are having these issues are ingrained in Greek Life and though they’re not a part of this, they do know the process because they have a lot of friends in that group. For someone that’s a complete outsider, I think what we’ll do is we’ll make some changes on the website and make a snippet that says, ‘this is where the email is going to, feel free to reach out to XYZ for these kinds of complaints’,” says Dalrymple.
One sorority member we spoke to elaborated on how she “bought into the idea” that her sorority was different when she first joined.
“Especially my sorority, I joined thinking I’d really be able to avoid any of the baggage that came with the sorority/fraternity life since it’s just Lethbridge. It’s really young. So, I didn’t think there really would have been an opportunity for anything to have happened,” she says. “I was wrong. I personally just feel like we’ve lied a lot about what they do and why they do it and how they do it. I’m definitely planning on going inactive, if not dropping out completely,” the sorority member adds.
“I’d say for the most part people are pretty much just upset for like 10 minutes and then they’re like, ‘okay, let’s keep partying’.”
All of our sources that we spoke to on this issue raised concerns about conduct that occurs at Greek Life parties, or parties where there are a significant number of Greek Life members in attendance. One example occurred last year. Screenshots sent to The Meliorist of minutes from a Delta Eta Iota sorority meeting from November 4, 2019, claim that “date rape type drugs” were possibly found at the organization’s Halloween party.
However, the meeting minutes chose to include this detail only after espousing the success of that party. The minutes read, “the Halloween party was a success overall! DHI is so glad that everyone is okay after such a good time. That being said … there is a very strong possibility that a ‘date rape’ type drug was used at the party.” Also of note is the title of this item in the agenda – aptly called “Something for y’all to know”.
“I think that they’ve put a lot of mouth service in terms of being really supportive for things like mental health and feminism and all these things. But when it comes down to it, they’re still a sorority and they still don’t seem to have an issue with their girls getting assaulted.”
A sorority member we spoke to says it’s what she should have expected from her organization. “I think that they’ve put a lot of mouth service in terms of being really supportive for things like mental health and feminism and all these things. But when it comes down to it, they’re still a sorority and they still don’t seem to have an issue with their girls getting assaulted,” she says.
“I think it should be emphasized [that] they try to market themselves as different, but they’re not. All of the issues you think of going in, they have them here. They just try to hide them, which I think is worse in some ways.”
Young was asked about this incident when we reached out for comment. Young said that meetings are considered part of their “secret sacred ritual” and thus access to specific details are limited, but also claims that “certain aspects of their meetings” are open to the public. She adds that their meeting minutes do not reflect the “tone” of the conversations held nor do they contain every piece of information said.
In specific reference to the minutes from the November 4, 2019, meeting about the drugs being found at a party, Young says the health and safety of all the organization’s members are always a priority. “We would never try to minimize the severity of any claim submitted in any circumstance. As such, the efficient communications between organizations and action plans made in such a short time span was nothing but impressive. As this was a major concern to us, further actions have been and will be taken at all our future events towards preventing any further occurrences,” says Young.
Panic! at the VSCO
The Greek Life members that we spoke with all expressed concern about the lack of transparency and accountability within Greek Life and how that has been reflected in their respective organizations. One incident that kept popping up during our discussions was regarding a problematic social media post and the subsequent response from the organization involved.
The Meliorist received an email last month of a screenshot of an Instagram post from an account called “collegefessions”. In the post is a quote attributed to the University of Lethbridge that reads, “our Frat has a tradition where each time we sleep with a girl, we take a selfie with them and post it on vsco so everyone knows.” As of December 15, the post is still up on Instagram and on the account’s Twitter page.
Along with the screenshot was an official statement from Dalrymple. In the statement, he claims the post was a paid advertisement from VSCO, a photography and social media app. However, the post first came from the “collegefessions” Twitter account and did not originate on their Instagram account, refuting the notion that the post was an advertisement, paid or unpaid. “This post was nothing more than clickbait using a top party school in Canada and the stereotype of ‘frats’ to increase engagement,” Dalrymple writes. He adds that the VSCO account in question does not exist and the particular quote has been used several times in recent years, attributed to other institutions.
The Meliorist has not been able to independently confirm the existence of such an account nor have we found this quote attributed to other institutions. But a sorority member we spoke with said that while the fraternity might not support the post, “[they] actively allow” the mentality behind the quote to proliferate. However, our source also reiterated the notion that it is likely a “contained group” of individuals who espouse that type of behaviour in question.
In his statement, Dalrymple says Kappa Sigma reported the post to Instagram and Twitter but were unsuccessful, as the post did not mention a specific fraternity nor was it “technically inappropriate”, according to Dalrymple. Yet, the post in question was published on October 23, 2019. The statement from Dalrymple was released more than a month later, on November 25, 2019. Dalrymple says the reason this was not addressed publicly sooner is that he felt giving the post more attention would bring further potential discredit to Kappa Sigma’s good name.
“We felt it would be smarter to only let the leaders of each organization know as a compromise to maximize awareness while minimizing social cost,” he writes. Dalrymple says a lot of the talking between each of the organization’s leaders was done weeks prior, and the issue was largely settled by the time it came up at the GLC meeting. “It’s just a really unfortunate circumstance. I don’t believe this culture exists within us,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t support that whatsoever.
But the organization’s tactic of only letting select members of Greek Life know about the post emphasizes the lack of transparency and accountability in Greek Life, a sentiment echoed by our sources. Another sorority member we spoke with said she has previously warned the fraternity on the perceptions that these incidents would cause, but their warnings were not taken seriously. A former fraternity member says this shows a “lack of care and work they put into making themselves a respectful organization.”
Overall, Dalrymple says he’s frustrated because he thought the situations referenced in this article had been resolved and all parties involved were happy. Dalrymple adds that everything had been handled in the best way it could and says he wishes there had been more communication with those who felt otherwise.
“Every single decision we’ve made this year I’m confident in and I don’t regret anything. I think that [if] people actually took the time to objectively look into it and to dig in deeper for both sides, that there wouldn’t be these sort of reports going on because it’s a very objective process,” he says.
As one sorority member sums up, “I think they need to get off their high horses and get off of the podiums that they put themselves on.”