Cornell students want to 're-examine' Greek system after frat president was charged with sexual assault

The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell University’s student-run newspaper, is calling for the reexamination of the Greek system after the president of a frat was arrested Thursday on charges of sexual assault.

Wolfgang Ballinger, the president of Psi Upsilon, the top-rated fraternity at Cornell, was charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, and first-degree sexual abuse. The alleged sexual assault occurred around 2 a.m. on Sunday, January 31.

The 21-year-old has pleaded not guilty, his lawyer, James A. Baker, told People Magazine.

“Wolfgang Ballinger is not guilty of the charges that have been filed against him. His innocence will be established at the proper time and in the proper place — which is in the courts, not in the media,” Baker told People.

We reached out to Baker and will update this post if we hear back.

The editorial in The Daily Sun urges the fraternity system to take stronger preventative measures to ensure its members don’t commit sexual assaults. That editorial — signed simply “The Cornell Daily Sun” — suggests certain qualities evident in fraternities can make women who visit them or encounter their members vulnerable to sexual assault.

“As a vehicle of hegemony, brotherhood can promote groupthink, creating a social environment where sexual assault may become allowable behaviour,” the editorial said, citing two studies it says back up its claim.

One study was conducted at a large midwestern university in 2005 with 325 undergraduate men, a quarter of whom belonged to fraternities. The study found fraternity men were three times more likely than non-fraternity men to commit “an act of sexual aggression” during a three-month follow-up period.

The other was a 2007 study that looked at first-year men at a midsized public university. That study found that men who joined fraternities and had seen a rape-prevention program were less likely to commit a “sexually coercive” act than fraternity men in a control group who hadn’t seen the program.

Cornell placed Psi Upsilon on interim suspension last Wednesday. The fraternity may face further disciplinary action, according to a statement released by University President Elizabeth Garrett.

“We will be considering what additional steps should be taken to ensure the Greek community at Cornell is living up to our institutional standard of excellence and respect for others,” the statement read.

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