Penn is pursuing a new policy towards off-campus organizations, though it's not clear how the University intends to ensure that these organizations will comply with their new proposals.
In an email sent Thursday, the University announced that it will begin to enforce the duties of its recently-formed task force on off-campus organizations during the coming academic year. The email was signed off by Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum and Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush.
Some of the proposals outlined by the task force include calling on off-campus groups to provide contact information of its members and register their events. In a joint statement sent to The Daily Pennsylvanian, McCoullum and Rush did not respond to questions on how the task force planned to identify off-campus groups or implementing punitive measures for groups that don't cooperate.
Officially titled “Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community," this task force was formed following an email sent by off-campus organization OZ inviting freshman girls via a suggestive poem to the one of the group’s “Wild Wednesdays” parties during New Student Orientation last year.
Students from the activist group “We are Watching,” called attention to the email by printing it on flyers, which they spread around campus. The group condemned OZ for perpetuating Penn’s rape culture, prompting the University administration to set up a task force dedicated to tackling issues surrounding off-campus fraternities.
The task force, headed by McCoullum, Rush and Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein, spent last semester working with students to put together a list of “Task Force recommendations” that form the basis of the measures that will be put into effect this year.
The email warned students that the measures being implemented are likely to have an impact on off-campus organizations and their members, and added that some on-campus groups are also likely to be affected by their new initiatives.
The task force aims to hold students accountable for their actions through the Office of Student Conduct.
"Students recommended that the University hold them and organizations accountable through the Office of Student Conduct," the statement read. "We concurred, as the Office of Student Conduct is responsible for determining sanctions for alleged student conduct policy violations by groups and individuals."
The email was only addressed to rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Incoming freshman will be notified of the task force and its policies during NSO, McCollum and Rush said in the joint statement.
The email said that the task force sees off-campus organizations as operating similarly to affiliated Greek organizations: having the same processes of rush, pledging and parties, but without any level of regulation.
The task force aims to enhance coordination between the University and off-campus groups by requiring identified off-campus groups to annually provide contact details to the Office of Student Affairs. Additionally, the University “expects” all student groups, off-campus and recognized and registered on-campus groups, to register any event with alcohol with the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.
"Doing so helps students manage risk and maintain guests’ safety, as registered events require hosts to hire bartenders and security," the email said.
Affiliated student groups have been required by the Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives to register any and all social events with the University since 1999-2000, but this is the first that that this regulation has been extended to off-campus groups.
The task force is also expanding its team of alcohol monitors, which will now be referred to as event observers, in order to facilitate their monitoring of registered events as well as their reporting of suspected unregistered events. Event observers are to collaborate closely with Penn Police and the student-run Medical Emergency Response Team.
Event observers are a University-appointed group of individuals who are present at registered parties to ensure that University policy is being followed in all registered events. Observers arrive before the start of registered events and perform periodic checks throughout the event to ensure that a safe environment is maintained for all guests. They routinely roam the campus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and notify campus organizations' leaders if they suspect that an unregistered event is taking place under their watch. If the event continues, the observers contact Penn Police to shut it down.
The University aims to have observers roam in pairs around areas encompassing University-owned housing and non-University-owned housing. Host organizations will also be required to provide sober hosts in a ratio of 1-to-30 expected guests on campus locations and 1-to-50 expected guests for events at third-party venues such as bars and restaurants.
McCollum and Rush said the task force is still in its developmental phase and that they aim to continue working with undergraduate students to understand and enforce what is expected from the task force.
"In the coming months, we will continue to discuss these expectations to all undergraduate students, including those in identified off-campus groups," McCollum and Rush said.