How Kappa Chi is living up to its slogan “Better men for a better world.”
Brett Gilmore doesn’t like what he sees when he Googles “fraternity:” Everything from incidents involving drugs and alcohol, to rape allegations and scandals that force fraternities to close their doors. Now, as Kappa Chi president, he’s looking to change that.
Gilmore is a second-year Concordia film studies major, ordained reverend and president of Kappa Chi, Concordia’s chapter of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Mandatory consent training was one of his main campaign promises during his run for president in the spring of 2018.
Gilmore was inspired in part by his time working for a travel company, an experience which often brought him into contact with traveling fraternities. “I saw a lot of Greek life and how they acted, and I feel like there wasn’t that training, so I decided to take it upon myself,” he said.
Although the program is labeled “consent training,” Gilmore said it encompasses much more than just consent. Fraternity brothers will also be trained in bystander intervention and responsible drug and alcohol use.
First, all of Kappa Chi’s current members earned their Smart Serve Certifications last week. Smart Serve is a training program run in Ontario that teaches bartenders and other service professionals how to responsibly serve alcohol, according to its website.
Following the fraternity’s fall recruitment period, known as “rush,” the fraternity will train all new and current members in a program designed by Concordia’s Dean of Students Office. Gilmore said the training will encompass everything from consent to bystander intervention to responsible drug and alcohol use.
Since 2017, Concordia has administered mandatory consent training to all of its fraternities and sororities through the Dean of Students Office. “In our trainings, we cover all the resources that may be accessed in situations that may arise at student events or in the day-to-day of student life,” said Terry Kyle, Manager of Student life in the Dean of Students Office. “These include: Sexual Assault Resource Centre, Security, Centre for Gender Advocacy, Health Services/Counselling & Psych.”
In addition, all chapters of Tau Kappa Epsilon must undergo a training session on consent, responsible drug and alcohol use or a related subject each semester, which is designed and administered by Tau Kappa Epsilon’s head office in the U.S.
However, Gilmore said he wants to make sure all relevant skills are covered in the first semester as soon as new pledges arrive. He also wants his program to harmonize Concordia’s rules and standards with those of Tau Kappa Epsilon in the U.S.
Gilmore already has extensive training in the skills he will teach his new pledges. When he worked as a director at a travel company, he took a three-hour consent course. Also, he and two of his fraternity brothers worked for one summer at an air cadet summer camp where they were required to take an eight-hour course on the proper way to deal with “everything from child abuse, to bullying, to adolescent intoxication and drug use,” he said.
Gilmore said promoting his new program to the media has been a challenge because of the stigma surrounding fraternities. He cites a recent radio interview with “The Evan Solomon Show,” in which host Evan Solomon asked Gilmore, “Do you still get wasted at parties? Is that still part of it? To pound liquor and get girls?” He also asked Gilmore if his fraternity still engaged in humiliating or abusive initiation rituals, known as “hazing.”
“Everything he was saying was literally what we’re trying to break,” said Gilmore, “because we’re not about that.” He said popular movies like Animal House and the National Lampoon series have contributed to this stigma.
Gilmore’s journey with Tau Kappa Epsilon began during his summer working at the cadet camp. There, he met two Tau Kappa Epsilon members who would become his “brothers.” It was through them that he was introduced to fraternity culture. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen it on TV, but I really don’t know what it’s about, and then they recruited me,” he said.
Since its founding at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1899, Tau Kappa Epsilon has had a long history of progressivism, according to Gilmore. Founded under the name “Nights of Classic Lore,” the fraternity was one of the first in Canada to ban hazing in 1929. “You don’t need hazing anymore,” said Gilmore. “It’s a fad. To scare someone into doing something isn’t the right thing to do.” He said the fraternity also abolished its requirement that members must be Christian during the civil rights era of the 1960s.
Famous members of the fraternity include U.S. President Ronald Reagan and American quarterback Aaron Rodgers, according to the chapter’s website.
Although Gilmore said he is not aware of any other fraternities in Montreal that have also adopted consent training, some American fraternities have followed the trend. In March, The Yale Daily News reported several fraternities on its campus were requesting consent training workshops. One of them, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was implementing mandatory consent training for its members as well, according to the article.
With 20 members, Concordia’s Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter is one of the smallest at Concordia. However, Gilmore said his fraternity is looking to expand to at least 60 members. Right now, it’s in the middle of its fall recruitment period, so training is not likely to start until October or November.
Gilmore said he wants his fraternity to set a standard on campus. “We just want to be qualified so that if we’re in a situation, no matter if it’s in Greek life, if we’re at a party with another club, a faculty party or another party outside of school, we’re able to take the necessary steps to help the situation,” he said.
Interested students can learn more about joining Kappa Chi on their website.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.