Red light, green light



Zeta Beta Tau brothers of George Washington University pictured at a recent retreat.Courtesy of Nick Carr
Zeta Beta Tau brothers of George Washington University pictured at a recent retreat.
Courtesy of Nick Carr

Fliers posted on the George Washington University campus this week pose thought-provoking questions: Does drunk and sloppy turn you on? Why don’t you think I know the difference between regret and rape?

The questions, which come amid a national discussion on how to combat a perceived epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, are provocative by design.

The university’s chapter of the historically Jewish Zeta Beta Tau fraternity is responsible for designing and posting the fliers around campus as part of a weeklong campaign to spur conversation about the issue.

“We wanted [the questions] to be provocative,” said Nick Carr, a senior and president of the GWU chapter of ZBT. “We want people to understand these issues, even if they haven’t experienced [them] per se.” Carr noted that given the statistics, most college students have been affected by sexual assault or know someone who has been a victim.

A recently released campus survey commissioned by the Association of American Universities found that 11.7 percent of respondents reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by “physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university.”

The fraternity worked with Jewish Women International to develop the Let’s Get Real campaign, which will culminate in what it hopes will be the world’s largest game of the schoolyard classic Red Light, Green Light on Saturday afternoon.

Sure, it’s gimmicky, Carr acknowledged, but it is prompting people to talk and consider how simple it can be to follow sexual and social cues if participants pay attention.

Like the childhood game, when an announcer calls out “green light!” participants will dash forward and stop on “red light!” but when “yellow light!” is called out, participants will consult with the person next to them, asking them for consent to proceed.

An observer from Guinness World Records will be on hand to tally the participants who are coming from area schools, including American University, University of Maryland and Towson University. The game is open to the public and will be held at the GWU University Yard. (Currently the Arizona Superbowl Host Committee holds the record with 1,136 participants in January 2015.)

“I think everyone wanted to do something big and we wanted to send a message [about sexual assault],” said Carr. “Seeing students care is everything.”

Meredith Jacobs, vice president of marketing and communication for JWI, said it was the young men who took the lead and impressed her with their passion for the project.

“The young men are saying, ‘This is on all of us, our generation to solve this problem [and] to be better men,’” said Jacobs, a former editor-in-chief of Washington Jewish Week. “They are asking, ‘What are those cultural norms on campus that allow the environment for assault?’”

As of this past summer, JWI is an official national philanthropy of ZBT. The two organizations have worked together in the past, alongside the historically Jewish sorority Sigma Delta Tau on the award-winning Safe Smart Dating series of programs that tackle issues of alcohol and sexual assault, victim-blaming and abusive relationships.

“It was the young men who said, ‘We want to make this a full week and make this really substantive and ignite a conversation,’” said Jacobs.

Carr said that pending the success of this week’s programming, ZBT hopes to roll out Let’s Get Real to other campuses this spring.

At GWU there is plenty of community buy-in.

The Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity Council are co-sponsors of the event, along with PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), No More, Men Can Stop Rape and the White House initiative It’s On Us.

“Convincing everyone was pretty easy,” said Carr. “It’s an issue that people felt strongly about and that Greek life leaders want to [tackle].”

Libby Anderson, assistant executive director of ZBT, said,“We’re seeing a movement in Greek life to take on these issues because it impacts everyone,” not just women.

Sexual assaults, Anderson and Carr both said, happen on campuses regardless of the presence of Greek life.

Said Anderson: “We want to be a leader in educating our members and making sure these conversations are happening.”

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