The National Panhellenic Conference, or NPC, and the North-American Interfraternity Conference, or NIC, have expressed support for a federal bill put forward in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require investigations of sexual assault on campuses to include law enforcement.
The bill, the Safe Campus Act — introduced by U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Arizona — is intended to protect the due process rights of both survivors and defendants. It requires that survivors report incidents of sexual assault to local authorities before the college or university can discipline a student accused of sexual assault.
“The NPC and NIC welcome any partner and support all efforts at the national level that advance the goal of reducing sexual violence on campus,” said an official statement from NIC.
Several government officials and UC Berkeley students have condemned both the organizations’ support and the bill itself.
“It is stunning to me that fraternities and sororities would back a bill that actually stops many victims of sexual crimes from getting the help they need and deserve,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, in an email. “As a former member of a sorority I am particularly upset that they would join this ill-conceived effort.”
UC spokesperson Rebecca Trounson said the University of California is concerned that the bill would have a negative effect on survivors’ reporting rates.
“In theory, it’s meant to increase the abilities of the reporting process,” said Aisling Peterson, a UC Berkeley senior and co-director of Greeks Against Sexual Assault. “However, I definitely have major concerns.”
The bill has also been denounced by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who have been attempting to pass through the Senate a bill that addresses sexual assault on campuses. The senators believe the House bill would prevent survivors from coming forward.
The NIC said in an email that it admires Gillibrand and McCaskill for their dedication to addressing the problem of sexual violence on campuses but that the senators’ condemnations contain misperceptions of the Safe Campus Act. The bill reaffirms that single-sex campus organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, are exempt from Title IX requirements.
“The bill would ultimately discourage survivors from reporting as well as prevent colleges from running investigations until the victim files a police report,” said Marisa McConnell, a leader in the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, in an email. “(It) goes against Title IX’s requirement to investigate all reports of sexual harassment and assault regardless of outside investigations.”
Several students involved in campus Greek life have expressed their opinion that not many members of the Greek community would support the bill. They also noted that the official stances of the NPC and the NIC do not necessarily align with the opinions of the students whom the organizations represent.
“This bill … is being heavily funded by the Fraternity and Sorority PAC,” McConnell said in an email. “If that’s not a massive red flag then I don’t know what is.”