The national offices for five sororities — Phi Mu, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Phi Epsilon and Gamma Phi Beta — declared Friday they do not support a controversial campus rape bill known as the Safe Campus Act, in statements each group released to its members.
The sororities’ position is a blow to the National Panhellenic Conference, an umbrella group for sororities that has lobbied in favor of the contentious campus rape bill. The NPC and the North American Interfraternity Conference have spent more than $200,000 in 2015 lobbying in support of controversial provisions in the Safe Campus Act, including limiting when colleges can investigate sexual assault cases.
“Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority rejects the proposed Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act,” the sorority’s leadership said in its letter to NPC. “The Bills eliminate the process by which sexual assault survivors on college campuses may seek relief, support, advocacy, and help from their campuses.”
“After a thorough investigation of these Bills, we must oppose them vigorously,” the letter said.
Delta Phi Epsilon is the only sorority to explicitly oppose the act. Earlier Friday, three sororities said they do not support the legislation.
“Phi Mu Fraternity does not endorse the Safe Campus Act nor the Fair Campus Act legislation,” the Phi Mu national office said in a letter to its members. “While we appreciate the intent of the proposed legislation, we do not support the bills.”
In a message to members from Alpha Gamma Delta, the group said: “As the Safe/Fair Campus legislation stands today, Alpha Gamma Delta is not in support of moving forward with these bills. We also acknowledge the call from NPCs leadership to join in conversation in the coming days to discuss a legislative re-focus by the Conference.”
Alpha Chi Omega also updated a statement it had issued Thursday to clarify it won’t be backing the Safe Campus Act, either. “Alpha Chi Omega has not and will not endorse the Safe Campus Act nor the Fair Campus Act without substantive victim-centered changes,” the organization said. Late Friday afternoon, Gamma Phi Beta joined by saying it would not support the bills after hearing from its members.
The Safe Campus Act is legislation currently in the House that would block colleges from investigating allegations of sexual assault as violations of their student code of conduct, unless a victim also reports to law enforcement. The bill is universally opposed by rape victims’ advocacy groups and has little support among trade groups representing higher education institutions. Some student governments have passed resolutions opposing it.
A similar bill, the Fair Campus Act, includes many of the same provisions but does not make reporting a sexual attack to the police a prerequisite for colleges to hold their own investigation or hearing into an alleged assault. It would allow colleges to use a stricter standard of proof than is currently required to decide whether a student committed sexual misconduct.
Alpha Phi became the first sorority to publicly break with the NPC when it issued a statement Thursday saying it is not in favor of the bill. Linda Kahangi, Alpha Phi’s executive director, would not say the sorority opposes the legislation outright, but told HuffPost it would let each chapter speak for itself.
Also on Thursday, the Alpha Chi Omega sorority issued a statement saying the “status quo is unacceptable” regarding sexual violence in college and that it “maintains that sexual assault should not be a political, partisan issue.” It updated the statement Friday to say it would not support the Safe Campus Act without major changes.
“We are encouraged that the supporters of both the House and the Senate bills are now collaborating to find common ground solutions to make our campuses safer,” Alpha Chi Omega said.
A total of six sororities, out of 26 represented by NPC, have now publicly distanced themselves from the Safe Campus Act.
More than 30 senators from both sides of the aisle have signed on to an earlier piece of legislation, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which has received support from rape victims’ groups and some higher education organizations.
NPC has not weighed in on the Senate bill. The organization did not respond to a request for comment.
“Our National Council will carefully evaluate any other proposed legislation that may be beneficial to our members,” Phi Mu said in its statement Friday. “If we endorse any legislation in the future, we will be transparent and share that information with you. We would like to thank those members, collegians and alumnae, who have reached out to us to express their thoughts on this important matter.”
Read the statements from Phi Mu and Alpha Gamma Delta:
UPDATE: This piece has been updated to include statements from Alpha Chi Omega and Delta Phi Epsilon.