On Tuesday, The Diane Rehm show had a panel of guests talking about the roles of fraternities and sororities on campus, which eventually turned into a discussion of the roles these organizations play in promoting rape culture. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former president of George Washington University and a current professor of public service at the school, offered this backward answer in defense of Greek life, as noted by Jezebel:
Dr. Trachtenberg: My experience is that students that are in fraternities have higher grades on average than unaffiliated students. Uh, they get involved in philanthropic activities of one sort or another providing great numbers of hours of service and fundraising on behalf of good causes. They have the opportunity to get leadership training provided by the fraternities. They get other kinds of training as well. Combatting sexual misconduct, values-based—
Rehm: And you don’t see them participating in sexual misconduct?
Dr. Trachtenberg: No no! I think it turns out that there are good and bad in fraternities and out of fraternities. What we’re focusing here on is a general situation. I think what we’re doing is creating a false correlation. For example, we point out that the women don’t drink, don’t have sorority parties which have alcohol. They don’t have to. They go to the parties at the fraternities. So it’s not as if the women aren’t drinking. They are, in fact.
Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.
This line of thinking—-that women drinking too much, not men sexually assaulting women, is to blame for said sexual assaults—-is nothing new, and has rightly come under fire. Last October, for instance, an Emily Yoffe column in Slate headlined “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” was bombarded with response pieces calling her argument dangerous and wrong.
A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that 20 percent of college women will be victims of sexual assault by the time they are seniors. And highlighting why someone like Trachtenberg’s view on sexual assault is so important, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating 76 colleges for their mishandling of sexual assault cases. GW isn’t on that list, but with that sort of response from a former president of a major university, it doesn’t seem all that shocking that colleges are so terrible at handling sexual assault cases.