UW student and Panhellenic Vice President of Membership Development Grace Woodard was enjoying a night out with her friends when she was sexually harassed by one of the security officers working at the party.
It was this event that sparked an anonymous survey from the UW Panhellenic Association asking women to report any incidents of sexual harassment from security guards. Out of about 200 responses, 25 percent reported feeling uncomfortable or having been harassed, according to Panhellenic President Delaney Fry. Additionally, according to Woodard, at the Anonymous Survivors Panel in 2016, one woman reported being raped after a party when she was walked home by a security guard.
This survey led Panhellenic and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) into an investigation of the three security companies UW fraternities use at their parties. The result of this was even more surprising than the anonymous survey. Woodard and Chief Justice of IFC Hunter Dale Cooper quickly realized that none of the security companies were licensed, bonded, or insured.
In an unrelated event, UW fraternity members were working with IFC to make their own security company and came to the same conclusion. Cooper said they “completely randomly stumbled across” the fact that the security companies don’t appear to be licensed or insured.
Washington state law requires all private security companies and guards to be licensed, bonded, and insured. A simple search led Cooper and Woodard to find that the security companies were not licensed, making the companies illegitimate. According to Cooper, this means the companies have been able to hire anyone and haven’t been doing background checks on their employees.
Niko Jones of Titan Security, one of the security companies discovered to lack the legal requirements, has stated that he holds himself and his company “to the highest of standards and has been in talks with the IFC to make sure that these third-party security companies (other security companies) can no longer operate in the Greek community.” He also plans on encouraging “better communication between [himself] and the IFC.”
Since the survey reported relatively high incidents of sexual harassment, the UW has banned any fraternity parties where three or more fraternities are in attendance (often referred to as “triads”), as these parties require security due to IFC rules.
According to Fry, UW fraternity presidents unanimously agreed to stop having triad parties until the issues with security are either resolved or they are able to find licensed security guards. In order to enforce this rule, fraternities face a $100 fine and are sent to the IFC Standards Board if there is a triad held.
To prevent this from happening again, Cooper and Woodard are looking into other security companies that are reputable and licensed. They are planning on changing Panhellenic and IFC bylaws to require licensed, bonded, and insured security companies. They also plan on incorporating an easier process for sorority and fraternity members to report incidents of harassment. Despite the 50 responses from the survey reporting harassment, no police reports have been filed.
Woodard thinks that this will alleviate many of the issues with harassment. In licensed companies, all of the employees will also be licensed and they can have their license revoked if there are issues of harassment reported. Until now, Panhellenic and IFC didn’t know who was working these parties.
“It’s just some dude that they hired off Craigslist,” Woodard said.
Panhellenic and IFC are working to make sure licensed and safe security will be working at future fraternity parties.
“If a security guard offered to walk me home, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second,” Woodard said. “I really hated the fact that people were taking advantage of that.”
Reach contributing writer Brooke Pasic at firstname.lastname@example.org.