Sorority members express concerns over Panhel-planned presentation on sexual assault

The presentation was held on Oct. 6 and closed to the public

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Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Sophia Gardner, News Editor

On Oct. 6, Michael Ayalon gave two presentations on sexual assault to two separate groups of Greek Life members gathered in the Student Union. The first presentation was for the sorority members and the second was for the fraternity members, though the content of the presentations was the same.

According to three sorority members who attended the presentation, it was not helpful. “I think it should have been a woman outside of Greek life,” senior Chi Omega sister Ellie Monger said. “With a background in either mental health or sexual assault.”

Ayalon’s academic background is in Public Service Management and Accounting, though he was trained by a Sexual Assault Center in 2013, he says. According to Ayalon, he worked on and off with the center for three years to develop his presentations.

He is no outsider to Greek life: he was the executive director of Sigma Pi Fraternity from 2012 to 2015. He is also the founder of Greek University, an organization that offers speakers to college campuses with a Greek Life presence to address an array of issues.

“I felt like it was so tone-deaf, having a male ex-frat guy come talk to us about sexual assault and tell us what consent is,” said junior Chi Omega sister Erin Miller. “I definitely was not impressed.”

Ayalon told the Collegian that he founded Greek University to “work with men and women from every fraternity and sorority in the country to help bring awareness to sexual assault prevention, built consent culture, and improve bystander intervention skills.” Sexual assault is not directly addressed, however, in the “Where It all Started” page on Greek University’s website, though it may be implied by the mention of campus safety issues.

Monger, Miller, and Caitlyn Calicchia, a senior Chi Omega sister, felt that Ayalon’s presentation made light of the issue of sexual assault.

“He had a lot of emojis. He also had grammar and spelling mistakes. It seemed like he threw it together,” Monger said.

“To be sitting and have him making jokes during a presentation when, I understand some people get uncomfortable with heavy topics like that, but this is a conversation that has to be serious,” said Miller. “You can’t take it lightly.”

Miller was also uncomfortable with Ayalon’s promotion of Greek University’s social media accounts during the presentation. “Personally, I don’t need to know about your Twitter and your Instagram,” she said.

“I thought it was very tone deaf,” Calicchia said. Some sorority members expressed their discomfort by walking out mid-presentation. According to Calicchia and Monger, around 15 girls were gathered outside of the room where the presentation was happening, and some were crying.

“I walked out too, because I wanted to make sure my friends were okay,” Calicchia said.

In addition, the sorority members who walked out were faced with a sea of fraternity members, who were originally lining up on the stairs of the student union, waiting to enter to receive the same presentation.

“I know that was very triggering for some girls,” Miller said. “Stuff like that just shows a lack of awareness.”

Tensions around the issue of sexual assault in Greek Life have been heightened in the past month. In September, the campus erupted in protests after a Theta Chi fraternity member was accused of sexual assault through social media.

This presentation, however, was not a direct response to the movement.

“We had this event planned since February as a proactive measure with the intention that this would open a much needed dialogue on sexual assault on our campus,” said the Panhellenic Council Executive Board in a statement to the Collegian. “We acknowledge that this is not a solution, but rather a starting point for a much larger conversation that we seek to be a part of.”

Members of UMass Greek Life originally met Ayalon at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association, where they “saw my sexual assault prevention program in its entirety, and they believed this particular program would help with both the men and women on campus, so they asked back then if I would bring this program to their campus,” Ayalon said.

“I’m very encouraged by the large student participation in the program on October 6th by both men and women,” said Ayalon, though attendance was incentivized. “80% of our chapter had to show up if we wanted to participate in Greek week,” Monger said.

“I know that Panhel had good intentions,” Miller said. “I just felt like, overall, there was just a lack of resources and preparedness for this whole entire thing.”

Sophia Gardner can be reached at [email protected] Followed her on Twitter @sophieegardnerr.