Sorority Girls vs The National Panhellenic Conference

Abigail Alexander, a Kappa Delta at the University of Arkansas, loves her sorority and her sisterhood, but has come to realize that not only is she part of an organization for academic women, but part of a political machine, that spends hundreds of thousands yearly, lobbying for legislation in U.S. Congress. The machine is the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and the most recent legislation in question is House Resolution 3408, also known as the Fair Campus Act.

The Fair Campus Act was proposed by Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas to ensure that sexual assault investigations on college campuses are carried out in the most fair manner. The act calls for a stricter standard of evidence than what is currently required for a university to press charges, as well as providing a lawyer for both parties and access to material evidence during a university’s judicial processes.

“I think this act was rooted in goodwill, but goes about sexual assault prevention in all the wrong ways,” said Alexander.

While the Fair Campus Act doesn’t make reporting a sexual assault to the police a requirement for universities to hold their own investigations of incidents, it does call for restrictions and requirements that could possibly prevent convictions. Victims’ groups across the nation oppose the proposal, saying it enables rapists rather than protects victims.

“We don’t force victims of other crimes to interact with police and file reports and initiate a criminal justice investigations, said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officers of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Among the supporters of the Fair Campus Act is the National Panhellenic Conference. The organization has already spent $200,000 lobbying for the Fair Campus Act, but the future of the legislation may be cut short depending on the individual national sorority chapters that make up the umbrella organization. In a press release published Nov. 13, the NPC stated that it will continue support of the act.

“Going forward, NPC will continue to collaborate with our 26 member organizations to develop programs and policies focused on ending sexual assault and supporting survivors,” said the NPC’s press release on Nov. 13.

However, multiple national sorority organizations that make up part of the NPC have come out disagreeing with this legislation, prompting the NPC to end their support.

“Alpha Chi Omega has not and will not endorse the Safe Campus Act or the Fair Campus Act without substantive victim-centered changes,” said a statement released by Alpha Chi Omega Nationals. “As a leader in NPC and in the area of domestic violence awareness, we take our role very seriously and believe collaboration is the best way to advance victim-centered legislation.”

Phi Mu, another sorority on Arkansas’ campus, has withdrawn its support as well.

“I’m proud of Phi Mu for being one of the first sororities to break their support,” said Hannah Hunter, a member of Arkansas’ chapter of Phi Mu. “I don’t like the legislation and think that it would hinder victim’s ability to feel safe and get support. Police investigations take a while. Universities should be able to act on their own to protect their students,”

In a press release, Phi Mu Nationals said while it does not endorse the Fair Campus Act, they appreciate work done by the NPC in their organization’s best interest and will continue to evaluate any proposed legislation that could potentially benefit their members.

While eight national sororities have spoken out against the legislation, others have remained silent, raising concern among members.

Alexander worries that her sorority dues are helping fund something she opposes.

Emma Von Edwins, a member of Pi Beta Phi, shares Alexander’s sentiment regarding the pending act.

“I’m concerned for the future of women in higher education,” said Von Edwins. “This isn’t a direction Congress needs to take and not something I want to be a part of. I’ll have a hard decision to make if my sorority decides to support the Fair Campus Act.”

This legislation was inspired by the recent high-profile rape cases at Vanderbilt, Florida State University, and the University of Virginia, and the increase in on-campus sexual assault over the past three years. NPR’s Investigative Unit analyzed the data reported by the Department of Education and found that the number of “forcible sex acts” on campus increased 49 percent from 2008 to 2012.

According to the University of Arkansas’ 2014 Campus Crime Statistics Report, three rapes were reported on campus property and an additional two were unfounded, meaning that no assailant was identified or a victim recanted.

This is in contrast to statistics provided by the Association of American Universities and the Bureau of Justice Statistics that report one in four college women experience sexual assault before graduation.

Megan Mctigue, a member of the Chi Omega Psi Chapter at the University of Arkansas, feels strongly in opposition to the Fair Campus Act because she believes it limits the resources available to victims.

“Women on campus will soon realize, if this act is passed, that this is not a place that encourages sexual assault victims to come forward,” said McTigue.

Statistics reported by the National Rape Response Services state that two to eight percent of rape accusations turn out to be false. “Misconceptions about false reporting have direct, negative consequences and may contribute to why many victims don’t report sexual assault,” states their website.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63.3 percent of men who self-reported acts of rape or attempted rapes confessed to committing the crime more than once.

The University of Arkansas’ faculty handbook’s section on sexual assault policy states that, in order to preserve evidence needed to prosecute, a victim “should not alter the scene of the attack. The victim should not change clothes, bathe, or shower, douche, drink or eat anything, or brush his or her teeth before reporting the assault.”

Alexander used this advice as an example of the length that victims already have to go to preserve evidence and obtain a conviction. She knows the Fair Campus Act will make this even more difficult because the amount of evidence required for a conviction will be increased.

“We will be studying the legislation and working with elected officials as it goes through the committee process,” said Randy Massanelli, Vice Chancellor of Government Relations.

The Arkansas Student Government is in opposition of the Fair Campus Act and the Student Panhellenic Council at the University of Arkansas, which recently elected new officers, plans to meet next semester to discuss the issue.

Hannah Pavey, the president of Von Edwins’ sorority on campus, said that Pi Beta Phi Nationals will meet this upcoming week to discuss the implications of the act and whether they will offer their support.
“Until Pi Beta Phi Nationals decides what to do, I want to make sure that my opinions and my sisters’ opinions are heard,” said Von Edwins. “I want our membership to be an influence.”

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Medical Marijuana; a Hot Topic for Upcoming Election

Hannah* can’t play soccer. She can’t go for runs or play with her dogs either. With a rare form of epilepsy that is exercise-induced, she can’t do a lot of things she used to love. Despite trying various forms of anti-epilepsy drugs, AEDs, over the years, most are ineffective in dealing with her epileptic episodes. Hannah, whose name has been changed for confidentiality, lives in Fayetteville and hopes medical marijuana will soon be legalized in Arkansas.

The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Arkansas for Compassionate Care (ACC), is a ballot initiative that hopes to achieve just that in the upcoming 2016 election.

If approved, the act would allow the creation of 38 Cannabis Care Centers. This number could increase or decrease based on the state’s need as evaluated by the Arkansas Department of Health. It would also provide provisions for state residents that live more than 20 miles from a care center, granting them a Hardship Cultivation Clause. This clause allows the patient to own up to five marijuana plants and five marijuana seedlings.

According to ACC, the act, as certified by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, needs 67,887 signatures to guarantee it becoming a state statute on the 2016 ballot.

“Medical marijuana is legal in 23 other states but it’s unrealistic to just up and move – especially in college,” said Hannah, “I believe in progress and I think the rest of Arkansas does too… Marijuana will be legal in no time.”

Despite current legislation, Arkansas voters seem to be leaning toward the legalization of medical marijuana. According to the Arkansas Poll in 2015, 68 percent of residents support legalization.

The last time Arkansas residents voted on the issue was in the 2012 election. Named the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question or “Title 5”, the initiative would have allowed those who qualify to own up to six plants and receive treatment from an unspecified number of dispensaries.

While the ballot initiative was approved, the statute was then vetoed with 51.4 percent of voters against it and 48.6 percent of voters for it. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a vocal protester of medical marijuana at the time, has told reporters that he would vote against a similar statute again.

Hannah cites the ignorance of state legislatures for the delay in modern drug reform that could potentially lead to important medical findings.

“The drugs I’ve tried previously haven’t dealt adequately with my condition,” said Hannah when asked about the motivation behind her beliefs, “I’ve researched alternative medications and for some, there is relief with marijuana. Anyone who can sympathise with this would vote yes.”

A study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics reveal the potential of medical marijuana to control and prevent epileptic episodes. According to this study, 30 percent of epileptic people report unsuccessful treatment from anticonvulsant drugs. Another study, performed by GW pharmaceuticals, showed a 54 percent decrease in seizures in people taking cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of marijuana, medication.

Quorum Court Allows Five New Hires

The Washington County Quorum Court met Tuesday at the county courthouse in Fayetteville to deliberate matters of Washington County’s 2016 budget. The Court’s Justices of Peace passed motions to allow the hiring of additional personnel to the Lester C. Howick Animal Shelter, the Circuit Clerk’s office and the Fayetteville Revenue Office.

The meeting began with Angela Ledgerwood, director of the animal shelter, explaining its need for three part-time employees.

“In order to safely process animals, it is truly a two-person job,” said Ledgerwood, “We are running Saturday, Sunday and Monday with just one person.”

Ledgerwood continued to explain that with the addition of three personnel, animals would be quickly adopted, therefore shortening their stay at the shelter and the amount of money spent maintaining them.

Another responsibility of the personnel would be to maintain the shelter’s Pet Finder, an essential tool in advertising the animals available for adoption.

The newly hired staffers would be paid $12 an hour for what JP Eva Madison of District 9 called an “attractive” position.

Conscious of the budget, JP Rick Cochran of District 7 suggested the idea of limiting the operating hours of the shelter in order to focus customer traffic to specific days, and save money during slower parts of the week.

The animal shelter currently has a 2016 budget of $460,004 for maintaining the establishment, sustaining the current nine full-time employees and one part-time employee and providing for the estimated 2,300 animals that move through the facility each year.

JP Ann Harbison of District 14 moved to vote, and Ledgerwood’s motion was passed with a 7-5 majority.

The Quorum Court also heard a motion that asked for two additional employees to be hired in the Circuit Clerk’s office.

The office recently transitioned to the Court Management System that calls for information to be docketed in “real-time”.

“This [new system] will require that the docket clerks stay completely up to date on the data being entered as the documents and cases come into the office,” said Kyle Sylvester, Washington County Clerk, in his written personal statement to the Quorum Court, “This new process is actually doubling the amount of data (work) that it takes to enter the information into the Court Management System.”

The Quorum Court passed the Clerk’s office motion with a 11-1 majority.

The last of the motions for new employees heard by the Court was from David Russ, tax collector, on behalf of the Fayetteville Revenue Office.

Russ said that new personnel was needed in the revenue offices due to the shift in where taxpayers go for services such as tag renewal and tax payments. This change has resulted in the opening of an additional office in Fayetteville for customer convenience.

Russ plans to move two of his employees to the new office, but requested the addition of one more employee to fill these offices at the original location.

The motion was passed by the Quorum Court unanimously.

The Washington County Quorum Court will meet next on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss matters of finance such as the Treasurer’s Report, Washington County’s 2013 audit, and a number of appropriation ordinances.

Bike Rally Brings Money to Local Charities

Fayetteville’s 16th annual Bikes Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally was held this past week. 400,000 people from every corner of the United States poured into Fayetteville to experience music from Kid Rock, The Dead Metal Society, and others, partake in the People’s Choice BBQ Competition, and ride the scenic roads of Fayetteville and other quaint Ozark Mountain towns.

BBB holds the title of the second largest motorcycle rally in the US, but even more notable is its position as the largest US charity rally. While bringing in the revenue equivalent of three Razorback football weekends, as stated by Joe Giles, BBB executive director, the rally has also generated more than $600,000 for local charities over the past 16 years.

501(c)(3) charities can apply for donations, as well as get involved by providing volunteers for the event and coordinating their own events, such as breakfasts and lunches for bikers to raise awareness of their causes. This year, the International Association of Firefighters organized two poker runs to raise money for Camp Sunshine, a summer camp for child burn victims.

To support the community which houses the rally, BBB donations are made strictly to local charities. Non-profits that have partnered with the rally in the past include the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of NWA, Horses for Healing, Peace at Home Shelter, and Meals on Wheels.

The Jackson L. Graves Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed to improve the care of children in intensive care units of local hospitals and the families of these children, has partnered with Bikes Blues and BBQ for more than five years.

“We typically apply it [donations] to christmas projects at children’s hospitals,” said Angie Graves, co-founder of the Jackson L. Graves foundation, “We give a gift to every family, typically a stocking filled with things for babies and their families…things that the families can use while they are there such as cd players, so that all the babies can have music in the neonatal intensive care unit.”

Another recipient of donations from BBB is Big Brother, Big Sister of NWA, an organization that pairs vulnerable children with adult mentors.

“Because of the financial support [of BBB], every year we are able to serve more kids,” said Executive Director Sarah Heimer, “It allows us to recruit more mentors and identify more kids at-risk in the community.” Heimer attributed the addition of 15 new mentors each year to the rally’s contributions.

The process of dividing funds to local charities begins immediately after the rally. Each charity and the amount they receive is determined by the rally’s board of directors.

“When the rally is over and we have all the money and pay all the bills and have ‘x’ amount left, we keep money to kickstart next year’s event, and the remaining amount is distributed,” said Giles, explaining the process of donation. He said that a vast majority of charities that receive contributions are focused on children, family, and the elderly.

To apply for donations for next year’s rally, you can send submit proposals on Bikes Blues and BBQ’s website. 2016 dates are set for Sept. 21- Sept. 24.

Civil Rights Ordinance Heads into Primetime Voting

Voting on the Uniform Civil Rights Protection Ordinance 5781 begins Tuesday, Sept. 8. The ordinance, written by the Fayetteville City Council, has been highly debated by Christians, business-owners, and civil rights activists.  The ordinance calls for equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents, hoping to end discrimination based on gender and sexual identity regarding hiring and housing.  

For Fayetteville, an organization supporting the ordinance, urges for equal rights for all citizens regardless of lifestyle and Protect Fayetteville, an organization protesting the ordinance, is fighting to protect religious rights within the community.

“The ordinance does not create fairness or freedom – it takes away freedom. It discriminates against people of faith, while pretending to offer anti-discrimination to people of certain sexual orientations,” said Duncan Campbell, an active member of Protect Fayetteville, over the phone on Friday.

Those fighting 5781 argue that as well as violating religious freedom by requiring privately owned businesses to serve those who do not live according to the owner’s faith-based values, it may put women and children in danger by allowing people to use whichever gender of bathroom with which they personally identify.

The For Fayetteville organization says the ordinance will better reflect the ideals of the diverse city, while extending equal civil rights to people of all sexual orientations and gender indentities. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right, but there has yet to be a law passed guaranteeing LGBT people from discrimination. For Fayetteville calls on local government to fill this void.

While some say that this ordinance may be a remake of ordinance 119, a civil rights ordinance that was repealed in December of 2014, For Fayetteville says otherwise. Repeal 119 and others in the community worked to get the ordinance repealed in a special election after the lax of religious exemptions angered many Fayetteville residents.

“The older ordinance was much longer and more wordy and had many subjective terms that could easily be misinterpreted,” said city councilwoman Adella Gray, when asked over the phone about the differences between ordinance 119 and ordinance 5781.

Ordinance 5781 is said to be more concise and to have improved definitions of sexual and gender identity, as well as outlining concrete courses of action if violated. If infringed upon, the offense is considered a city penalty. The offender can be charged up to $100 after standing before a civil rights commision in order to determine the validity of the claim. The commission will consist of “two representatives of the business community, two owners or managers of rental property, one representative with experience in Human Resources or employment law, and two citizens at large, at least one of whom identifies as LGBT,” as stated by the ordinance.

Voting will begin Sept. 8 with polling stations open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. For locations, check the Washington County website.