By Alexa Mehraban ’13
On Tuesday, Nov. 8 St. Anthony’s Hall hosted a women’s safety forum titled “The Women of Trinity College and Fraternity Culture.” Some female students received emails about the forum, while others learned about the event through flyers and word-of-mouth. Approximately 35 students, including seven Hall members, were present at the event.
The president of the Hall, Joe LaSala ‘12, began the discussion by bringing up the incident involving a knife held to a girl’s stomach that took place at the Hall on the night of September 15. LaSala expressed his main concern as a question to students: “why did this issue occur and what were the circumstances that allowed for this to happen?” LaSala ‘12 proceeded to list the agenda for the evening. First, female Hall members would express their personal opinions and experiences upon joining the organization. Then participants would break up into smaller groups to discuss issues with Hall members. Finally, the groups would remerge and share the responses in an open forum.
Elizabeth Lanahan ‘12, Samantha Kerr ‘12, and Brooke Weicker ‘12, shared their stories of how they became part of the Hall and why the organization was a fit for them. Kerr explained that although she thought about transferring after her first year, she “found herself [at the hall] on pref night.” Weicker described her experiences at the Hall in a positive light, particularly because, as she explained, “boys know how to treat girls here.” Students listened to the stories of each Hall member and then broke into smaller groups.
Upon the formation of each group, the brothers began asking a list of prepared questions. The questions ranged from whether students had good experiences at the Hall to whether members of the Hall ever made you feel uncomfortable. In terms of the general reputation of the Hall, Naomi Sobelson ‘12 expressed that part of the appeal to the fraternity has to do with the fact that “people are attracted to exclusivity.” Hall brother Matt Tesone ‘13 responded, “the exclusivity is based on safety even though it hurts our reputation in some ways.”
During the small group discussion, students seemed to agree that it would be ideal if nightlife at Trinity began earlier because the later a party starts the more dangerous it tends to be. This issue is particularly pertinent to the Hall, which has a reputation of starting parties at two or three in the morning, when other fraternity parties come to an end. The group discussed other means of promoting safety such as working with T-CERT, closing the bar after certain hours and hiring a bouncer or campus safety officer for all parties. The group also explored the idea of having designated sober brothers at each event who would be responsible for the safety of all guests. The brothers would be identified with a uniform, such as a hat or shirt that would allow guests to approach them if in need. Students also seemed to respond positively to the idea of keeping a guest list of students who enter each party so all attendees are recorded in case of an emergency.
Once the groups reconvened, group leaders summarized the responses they received to each question. Issues about exclusivity and crowding at the door led to a heated discussion. After some back and forth, Hall brother Smith Alpert ‘13 made a statement that set the tone for the rest of the discussion, “the way things are isn’t going to last much longer. We need to find a happy medium that existed in the past. This event is one of the first steps toward that goal.” Shanese Caton ‘14 countered his statement, asking “what steps are being taken? Having this talk and saying it’s sad isn’t enough.”
In reply to Caton, LaSala reaffirmed that this event is laying the groundwork for change and would be the first of many steps. For the rest of the discussion, Hall members returned to the issue of what has to be done to promote safety for students. Students suggested that Hall members speak out to the entire student body and express their concerns. As Carlos Velazquez ‘12 explained, “Now we know about your concern, but no one out there can see it.”