the u of t administration, in-
cluding the dean of New College, is calling for a toughening of the school's student code of conduct after four women complained of being sexually assaulted at a party at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity earlier this year.
Under the current code of conduct, the university can only discipline students for their behaviour on campus or at university-sanctioned events.
Fraternities, though, pose a dilemma. Even though most who belong to fraternities at U of T are students there, frats are considered to be completely separate. The former university governing body severed all ties with fraternities and sororities more than 40 years ago .
But the incident at Delta Kappa Epsilon, or DKE, seems to have shocked the administration into rethinking its ties to frat houses and the reach of the current code of conduct. Some in the administration want the code changed so that the governing council can discipline inappropriate behaviour by students off university property. The measure, if adopted, promises to open a controversial can of worms.
Susan Addario, U of T's director of student affairs, says the absence of any formal relationship between the university and frats makes changing the code to include them a "murky" proposition.
"Not to diminish inappropriate things that may happen to our students off campus," she says, "but we are not in a position to mete out discipline to any organization that we don't have a formal relationship with."
The U of T student handbook points out as much.
It stipulates for incoming students that frats are not recognized by the university and that, as a result, "problems and difficulties arising out of fraternity activities cannot be resolved through university services."
Frats pose a double dilemma. While they're not formally recognized by the university, they do exist as a potential source of student housing. They also take part in university co-sponsored philanthropic events. Frats occupy property on the university campus but are owned by private interests, mostly based in the U.S.
"It's a difficult one," says Ann Yeoman, the dean of New College and one of those pushing for a strengthening of the code. "But I would certainly like to see our students looked after in a circumstance where something happens to them that impacts on their campus and academic life."
Universities in the U.S. have sought to bring frats under tighter campus control after a number of "hazing" incidents led to civil suits.
Here, there have been "informal" complaints of sexual assault in the past by female students who've attended frat parties. But the alleged incident at DKE is the first to prompt a formal request for the administration to act.
A "third-party" complaint on behalf of one of the women allegedly assaulted has been filed with the Toronto police. Yeoman herself has issued an order restraining two frat members who were allegedly involved in the incident from making any contact with the women, who live in residence at the university.
One among them agreed to talk to NOW about the incident, but only on condition of anonymity since police are still investigating.
She says she and a group of friends were at a party at the DKE frat on St. George February 2 when she was cornered, "grabbed" and kissed by one of the males. She immediately went looking for her friends to leave. She says the women were told by the frat members that one of their missing friends had gone home.
But she was not at her dorm when the women got back to their New College residence, so they made their way back to the frat house. There, she says, "all the frat boys," blocked the women so they couldn't get into a room where they suspected their missing friend was. "None of them helped," she says.
The missing woman finally emerged from the room looking like "a wreck." She was taken to the hospital for tests, the results of which have been turned over to police, who the women said were called twice that night but failed to show.
The women complained as a group to the university administration but are reluctant to press criminal charges because "it's just our say against theirs," says the woman who spoke to NOW.
Police are now investigating in case any of the women involved opt to pursue charges in the future. Wendy Leaver, a detective with the sexual assault squad, says the fact that the incident was first reported as a missing person could have something to do with police not responding. She says that several of those who belong to the fraternity have agreed to answer questions, but that it's too early to say what happened that night.
Myra Lefkowitz, the university's community safety officer, says that while alcohol remains a constant of frat life, in the one and a half years she's been at the university there's been nothing to suggest that frats are "a place of increased vulnerability" for women on campus -- save for one incident in which a woman reported that drugs were used to spike her drink.
It's unclear, however, just how much a police probe of the alleged incident at DKE will turn up. Most of the fraternities on campus are very tight-knit groups run in the tradition of secret societies. The "Dekes," as they're called, have been in existence here since 1898. Their Yale affiliate is the fraternity that current U.S. president George W. Bush belonged to. One of the members reached at the frat says he would have to discuss whether or not to make any public statement on the incident with fellow members, but never does get back to NOW.
Ryan Prong, a spokesperson for the Greek Fraternal Association, an umbrella group for frats on campus, says the group would generally welcome closer ties to the university.
Some frats within the GFA, though, would prefer to keep their autonomy. On campuses where universities have greater control over fraternities, Prong says, "it's caused a lot of problems. The rules become very strict. The fraternities become almost like dormitories."
Prong adds that the Dekes are known on campus for their ethnic diversity, nice house and good parties.