MARS raises banners, awareness
The banners are the centerpieces of the BannerUp campaign organized by Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, an organization within the Interfraternity Council. The first banner was hung at the Beta Sigma Psi house Oct. 2, and new banners continue to be added to fraternities each day.
“We thought this would be a really easy, simple thing that would raise a lot of awareness with not a lot of cost or complexity,” said Jesse Scheinman, vice president of membership development for IFC and the overseer of the MARS program. “It’s something very feasible that creates a positive impact.”
MARS worked with Safe Sisters, a similar organization within the Panhellenic Association, SACS and Culture of Care to develop the campaign.
“We collaborated heavily with MARS with the banners, and we definitely encouraged them with the project,” said Bella Shu, vice president of personal development for the PHA and the overseer of Safe Sisters. “I think it really shows unity among all Greek members fighting for a safer community at large on campus.”
Both MARS and Safe Sisters are recently developed organizations. Safe Sisters has existed for five years and began with 30 to 40 members. The MARS program in particular was in need of better organization and a clearer mission within the last few years, Scheinman said.
“When I got started on the IFC, there was no roster for MARS, no bigger themes tied in, just two speakers per semester,” Scheinman said. “I saw the need for a better education process and better leadership.”
MARS now has 231 members and admission standards for the organization are high, Scheinman said. Safe Sisters has also seen an increase in recent membership, with 117 new members being trained this weekend, Shu said.
“I think the banner campaign has really helped with that and is really effective itself,” said Joshua Shalen, president of Sigma Alpha Mu and a member of MARS. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show the University and the community what our stance is, and it’s making every fraternity more conscious of its decisions and actions.”
Recent events within the Greek community have made its organizations even more aware of this. Alpha Tau Omega was asked by MARS to remove its banner after the fraternity was shut down due to the release of a sexually explicit video involving many of its members.
“Things like that make it very easy to get discouraged, but that’s not what’s going to happen,” Scheinman said. “We’re going to use these events to work harder, and it doesn’t mean that we won’t come back even stronger.”
Making sure organizations like MARS and Safe Sisters are truly upholding high standards is a big priority, Scheinman said. Mandatory training sessions for both organizations are typically four hours long. A session run by Safe Sisters this week is being monitored by SACS to gain a sense of their organization’s efficacy, Shu said.
“I really do think this project is effective and creates a cool visual reminder,” said Karis Neufeld, co-president of Raising Awareness in Sexual Encounters, a student division of SACS. “The front of every Greek house is making this big statement right out there in everyone’s faces.”
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