(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — Sororities at the University of Virginia abided by a controversial mandate that they not participate in fraternity activities over the weekend to protect their “safety and well-being,” but many say they were not happy about it.
The mandate came in a letter sent Jan. 20 to the school’s 16 sororities from their national presidents.
“We believe the activities of Men’s Bid Night present significant safety concerns for all of our members and we are united in our request that the sixteen NPC sororities not participate,” the letter said. “We encourage you to plan alternate sisterhood events with expectations of full chapter participation.”
Though the letter put it in terms of a “request,” failure to comply would result in penalties for the sororities.
Erin Dyer, a third-year student in a sorority at UVA who penned an article in the Washington Post, called the sorority mandate demeaning, discouraging and ineffective.
“If this is going to be a solution to address sex assault, if our only solution is to tell women to stay inside their homes and to not associate with any of their male Greek friends then I think that is discouraging and we are setting a terrible example for colleges across America,” Dyer told ABC News on Saturday.
The edict came on the heels of a semester that included the death of a student and now largely discredited allegations of gang rape at the school, published in Rolling Stone magazine detailing a culture of binge drinking and sexual violence at the University of Virginia.
Instead of participating in the biggest night of the year — also known as Boys Bid Night — sororities held sisterhood bonding events like mandatory dinners in their houses or dry watch parties for the UVA-Duke basketball game Saturday night.
A petition against the sorority mandate on Change.org had received more than 2,500 signatures before this weekend.
Story Hinckley, a fourth-year student in Kappa Alpha Theta who started the petition, said she is outraged.
“I really wanted to have a place where people could sign their name and say I don’t agree with this and tell the NPC and UVA that just because women are abiding by this mandate doesn’t mean that we approve it,” Hinckley told ABC News.
But Hinckley said it’s not about missing the biggest night of partying at the school, but rather that the decision was made without any student input and paints men as dangerous and women as powerless.
“It would be silly for these women to be upset simply about missing one night of a party,” Hinckley said. “What they are concerned about is this national organization thinks the solution to rape and sex assault is to let ‘boys be boys’ and lock up women in their sorority houses for this one night out of the year.”
In response to a question asked about the new sorority mandate in an address to the university community on Friday, UVA President Teresa Sullivan said she had not spoken with the national leaders nor did they consult the university about the letter.
Sullivan did say, however, that it was the choice of those in sororities to decide the extent to which the members would abide by the policies of their organizations.
But Sullivan emphasized she trusts in the maturity of the students to make their own decisions.
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