Joe Biden to Greek Life: sexual assault ends when culture changes
Editor's note: A previous version of this story omitted context for parts of the former vice president's speech. The story has since been updated.
Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t forgotten his initiative to end sexual assault, which began while he was in office with former President Barack Obama — and the onus he placed on young men.
The 47th vice president of the United States was the keynote speaker at the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values Central 2018 conference, which ran from Friday to Sunday in Indianapolis at the JW Marriott.
- PHA Chapter of the Year: Sigma Kappa
- NPHC Chapter of the Year Award: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
- IFC Chapter of the Year: Phi Delta Theta
- Honorary Greek Leader of the Year: Chad Kelham, alumnus of Sigma Chi
- Greek Leader of the Year: Trevor Holland of Lambda Chi Alpha
- Greek Leader of the Year: Joe DiCola of Pi Kappa Phi
- Greek Leader of the Year: Jillian Fledderman of Alpha Chi Omega
- Outstanding Executive Council Member Award of the PHA: Sophie Gordon of Phi Mu
- Outstanding Executive Council Member of the NPHC: Natalee DeJohnette of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
- Outstanding Executive Award of the IFC: Ethan Kraven of Phi Kappa Psi
- PHA Outstanding Chapter President Award: Rachel Marquell of Chi Omega
- Outstanding NPHC Chapter President Award: Justin Gray of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
- IFC Outstanding Chapter President: Trent Sauceda, Phi Delta Theta
- Outstanding New Member/Neo Award of PHA: Brooke Isroff of Phi Mu
- Outstanding New Member/Neo Award of NPHC: Kaia Thompson of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
- Outstanding New Member/Neo Award of IFC: Darius Perry of Lambda Chi Alpha
- Duane Deal Outstanding Advisor: William Wrege of Phi Kappa Psi
During his speech, Biden referenced when he met with college and high school students about how they thought sexual assault could end.
“I was almost embarrassed I hadn’t focused on what they said,” Biden said. “The overwhelming response from 30,000 students was ‘get men involved.’”
Looking at the crowd's presence, Biden said Greek Life was already showing initiative in being involved.
"This is one of the most encouraging things I've seen. Four thousand of you from around the country here deciding that you're going to take hold by taking various teachings," Biden said. "You're going to use them as the biggest ends of the solution."
In the audience was Ball State Greek Life, including all of its Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council, representatives from sororities and Kari Murphy, director of Greek Life.
Later at the conference, Ball State received 17 awards, for its Greek Life, which were given to members at Grand Chapter according to the Office of Greek Life, as well as recognitions for its IFC and Panhellenic Council.
Throughout his address, Biden focused on changing the "culture" surrounding sexual assault on college campuses, which he believed would then "ripple" to changing how women are treated in their professional lives.
Biden said allegations of sexual assault against celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are examples of how misconduct by men in the workplace can unfairly destroy a woman’s career.
"Men have had power over scores of women and their careers," Biden said. "Men have abused that power in a disgusting way."
Multiple times, he also credited "courageous" women for the nation-wide demand to expose and stop actions of exploitative men — including those brought to light by way of the #MeToo movement.
However, at one point, Biden addressed college-aged men directly.
“Step up at the bar or fraternity party or the dorm when you hear a degrading discussion about women," Biden said.
He also told the men in the audience to intervene further when dire circumstances arise.
"Any of you guys who see a freshman co-ed at a party drunk out of her mind, one of your brothers or roommates walking her up the stairs — if you do not intervene, you are a coward," Biden said. "You are complicitous.”
Among the thousands of leaders from Greek Life in attendance, Julia Bollwitt, a junior psychological science major and Alpha Chi Omega president at Ball State, attended the speech.
Bollwitt said having the star power of Biden at the conference draws attention to what she is aiming to accomplish within her own chapter.
“Having such a powerful influence like Joe Biden come into AFLV adds an extra push to continue the efforts to end sexual violence on our campuses,” she said.
As Ball State's greek peer advocate director, Bollwitt also said she will carry pieces of Biden's message back with her to campus.
“I personally will take back the challenge of speaking up now because the world is listening," Bollwitt said. "I think we’re in a special time where every person in our community has a voice and power to change our culture."
This conference comes after Ball State lifted all of its IFC chapters of a social pause that lasted from Oct. 24 to Jan. 31 for 12 of the 13 chapters and a week longer for Phi Gamma Delta.
To be lifted from the pause, each chapter’s members had to complete a number of alcohol awareness and sexual assault prevention trainings.