Clemson’s IFC Suspends All Social Events- Stone Washington

With the emergence of the New Year and fresh start for American schools and colleges, 2018 begins with a sexual assault crisis among the fraternities at Clemson University. As of Saturday, January 28th, a male member of an on-campus fraternity has been accused of sexually abusing a female student at a Friday night party. The sexual assault was allegedly carried out by a member of Clemson’s Delta Chi fraternity.  On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed the suspect was not a student, but declined to release further details. According to a report from Independent Mail, “The Clemson University Police Department notified the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office around 12:30 a.m. Saturday about a reported sexual assault at the Delta Chi fraternity house on D Morris Way in Seneca, said Jimmy Watt, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.” Delta Chi is approximately 5 miles away from Clemson’s campus, and Sheriff Watt voyaged over to the fraternity to consult with the victim of the attack after the report was filed on the 29th. Initially, the officer was reluctant to disclose whether or not the female victim was in fact a Clemson student, later revealing that she was not an attendee of the school, in a statement made on Tuesday January 30th. Officer Watt did not view this isolated situation as a threat to public safety, thus refusing to disclose any more personal information at this time.

Delta Chi Fraternity House (Photo: Georgie Silvarole/Independent Mail)

This incident has however sparked major controversy within the realm of Clemson’s Interfraternity Council, the official governing entity that orchestrates all fraternity affairs on Clemson’s campus. The Council overseas the 20 different fraternities at Clemson, and thus is responsible for any actions taken by fraternity members. The IFC is thus the primary barer of blame for any reckless behavior of Delta Chi. In response to this controversy, the president of IFC and senior at Clemson, Landon Flowers released a brief statement that indefinitely suspended any fraternity based activities, until “necessary measures are taken”. Social events at Frat houses are banned, along with any use of alcohol, with the exception of third party venders such as with: social gatherings, events in downtown, etc. Flowers mentioned meeting with the Executive Board members over the IFC pledging to better their Risk Management Policy and avoid the potential of further sexual assaults in the future.

With this statement by Flowers, and the decision by the Executive Board of the IFC, many Clemson students and faculty are perhaps scratching their heads in response to a potential breach of the First Amendment within the U.S Constitution, namely, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. The IFC’s decision to ban the gathering of students hosting Fraternity based social events collides with every college student’s inherent Constitutional right to assemble in public or private venues in a peaceful manner. The members of the 20 Fraternities under the IFC are obligated to abide by the rules of the Executive Board, but it remains unclear as to if the IFC has the ultimate authority to fully ban the gatherings of students should any fraternities decide ignore the IFC.

Statement released by the IFC President Landon Flowers

So far, no student group or member of Clemson’s fraternities has opposed this mandate by Flowers and the IFC, and the decision remains in place until “necessary measures are taken”, implying that the South Carolina police and the Executive Board has yet to decide upon the fate of the perpetrator of the sexual crime. The decision was held by the 7-member IFC Board on Sunday January 28th at around 10:00 AM, according to the Independent Mail report, and the Board was reported to have issued a unanimous statement in favor of the ban on fraternity based activities. According to a separate statement by Flowers, “The Interfraternity Council is a self-governing, student-run entity and doesn’t need university approval to take action like this”, he stated. “No one objected to suspending all fraternity activities while the police continue the investigation”. Flowers refused to comment on any possible objection to the IFC’s decision based on violating a student’s First Amendment right to assemble, and thus leaves open the possibility that a student or group on campus may challenge the IFC’s perceived role in this matter as inappropriate. What is the scope of the IFC’s governing authority in regard to its members? Does being a member of voluntary self-governing body at Clemson absolve one from abusing a student’s Constitutional rights? And to what extent was the Delta Chi student influenced by his fraternity and the policies of the IFC that allowed such a reprehensible act to occur in the first place? All pressing unanswered questions one should consider as this emerging sexual assault controversy unfolds at Clemson University, begging the question of a potential Constitutional crisis on the horizon, involving student governed entities at college campuses.

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