By JONATHAN POLSON
Earlier this week, President Rick Hurley announced his intention to place a hold on the consideration of instituting a Greek life system at the University of Mary Washington.
In a campus-wide email sent out shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Hurley announced a “moratorium… on consideration of establishing such a system at UMW” while also addressing the recent Rolling Stone article depicting a horrific incident of rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house in 2012.
The article made national headlines in recent weeks and has made a major impact at UMW.
“The University of Mary Washington will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Hurley said in the email.
In the article, UMW, a former a sister school of UVa., is mentioned in a line from “Rugby Road,” a U.Va. fight song laden with sexist lyrics and descriptions of rape.
The article was released at the same time that the UMW Student Senate and Student Government Association Executive Cabinet passed a motion to consider establishing Greek Life at the university.
“While I recognize that these organizations can have many positive attributes to offer for some students, I believe that now is not the time for us to move forward on any proposal to formally establish a Greek system at Mary Washington,” the email read. “If and when the time should be right to revisit this issue, we will do so – but it will not be in the immediately foreseeable future.”
Students at UMW have debated the possibility of Greek life extensively during this past month. The debate came to a head two weeks ago at an open forum, during which students on all sides of the debate packed into Lee Hall 411 to discuss the issue.
Student Senator Raymond Santavasci presented the original motion to consider instituting Greek life, which went on to pass through the SGA Executive Cabinet on a vote of 3-0-4.
“I respect President Hurley’s decision in the matter,” Santivasci said. “At the same time, I do believe that the students’ voice was put on silent in this case. One way or another, the student body should have been the ones making this decision, or at least had a voice in the matter.”
Paige McKinsey, president of UMW’s Feminists United on Campus, noted that addressing sexual assault at UMW is the most important thing to prioritize at this point in time.
“While as a club Feminists United is not for or against Greek Life, we believe that before any discussion of bringing Greek Life to UMW takes place, the issue of sexual assault needs to be addressed,” McKinsey said. “While the administration is taking some good steps to address this issue there is still a significant amount we can do to improve.”
McKinsey reiterated many of the concerns that she brought up during the Greek life forum.
“I don’t believe we should bring in an institution which is shown to increase rates of sexual assault on campus until we have fully supported victims and survivors currently on campus,” McKinsey said. “I appreciate President Hurley’s commitment to addressing sexual assault on campus and I would urge the UMW community to join together to confront this issue.”
Hurley emphasized the task force he appointed earlier this semester to “focus greater attention on these matters [of sexual assault] and to create a strategic plan to move UMW forward in this area.”
Leah Cox, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion and UMW’s Title IX coordinator, heads the task force that is made up of members of UMW’s faculty, staff and student community.
“These individuals are deeply committed to making Mary Washington a better place and they bring critical expertise and experience to the work ahead,” Hurley said in the email. “I am charging this group with recommending to me a plan that will ensure that UMW will be resolute in addressing the issues and building a campus climate conducive to the needs of all our students.”
McKinsey stated that supporting the task force and encouraging the UMW community to help find a solution to the issue of sexual assault is an important move.
“As the President of Feminists Untied, I am happy with President Hurley’s decision to place a hold on the Greek Life debate at UMW and instead focus attention towards addressing sexual assault and rape on campus.”
Santavasci also noted, as a Student Senator, that the necessity of combating sexual assault must be made a priority.
“I will continue to listen to my peers and pursue any issues they deem important,” Santivasci said. “One of these issues, sexual assault, I think it’s important we all focus on.”
Earlier this month, the Student Senate also passed a motion for the university to conduct a scientific poll to study the university community’s stance on Greek systems. That motion passed unanimously in both the Senate and the Executive Cabinet, but Hurley’s email made no mention of whether the university will still conduct this poll.