Sigma Chi discusses actions

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, April 21, 2016

By Michael Quirk

Following comments made during Sigma Chi Derby Days over the weekend, some at the University of Mississippi are working to raise awareness of what rape culture is, as well as trying to eradicate it.

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Days after sophomore Alexis Smith on Facebook called for the community to do better after hearing vulgar, sexual comments and questions directed at sorority members during the Derby Day fundraiser, Sigma Chi president Clay Wooley reached out.

“We were able to get in touch and I wanted her to know that my words were misconstrued,” Wooley said. “That’s on me. I should have known better and been better prepared because it is so important not to downplay not just what the event was, but what the culture is and what that leads to. That’s what we need to strive to fix.”

Wooley said he and Smith were able to come together in a way even he wasn’t expecting. He feels the two will be close friends for a long time after coming together via a unique circumstance.

Currently, Sigma Chi is undergoing a Title IX investigation regarding whether or not there will be consequences for any individuals or the fraternity as a whole. Michael Church, executive director at Sigma Chi’s national office, released a statement saying the fraternity is disappointed in the actions in the past but looks forward to positive steps in the future.

“We are disappointed that inappropriate comments were made in connection with an event hosted by our chapter for their philanthropic effort, known as Derby Days, and are in the process of investigating the specifics of the situation,” the statement read. “Sigma Chi Fraternity has no tolerance for belittling or harassing speech and is taking this matter seriously. Through our partnership in the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative we are proud to be a leader on the issue of delivering education to college students on the topic of preventing sexual misconduct.”

Jon Fisher, chapter adviser for Sigma Chi at Ole Miss, was the Derby Days chairman in 1984, participated in four such events as an active member and has spent the last four years as the fraternity’s adviser. Fisher said while the event has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years, he can’t recall this type of controversy arising from Derby Days.

Smith, a sophomore from Picayune, said that the situation isn’t an isolated one, nor is it limited to official events. This situation has allowed for a dialogue to take place in regards to how to prevent this from happening again — a silver lining for Smith.

“I think it’s important to realize that these things that happened at Derby Days happen all the time all over campus,” she said. “It’s been great to see that the focus has shifted from one specific fraternity and event to a broader culture. Because the conversation has changed, we can now be proactive and come up with some good from it.

“The situation and culture is bad but we can be the change agent. Fraternity leadership is stepping up, the university is stepping up and people all over campus are stepping up. I think it’s awesome and good things will come of it.”

Wooley believes that in prior coverage of the event, it seemed as if he was downplaying the event, and in turn, rape culture, a misconception he deemed as “absolutely not the case.” He made it clear that what happened at Derby Days was improper and wants to make steps in order to change it.

“A lot of people thought it was an unsafe environment and the comments made were degrading to women and lead into rape culture,” he said. “That is the problem as a whole with not just the Greek community but also with college campuses and our country. A lot of things are said that people don’t really think about, and it’s not OK. What we need to be promoting is a respect culture, being courteous of others and being human being to another.”