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Monday, September 23, 2019
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Frat leaders attending Conference on College Men

Two Emerson fraternity leaders will join Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) director Melanie Matson at the Conference on College Men from June 18-20, when the trio will lead a discussion on how fraternities can help prevent power-based interpersonal violence, including abusive relationships, stalking, sexual assault, and harassment.

“Our focus is engaging everyone in a positive way to shape violence-free campuses,” Matson said. “We’re sharing an example of what one college [Emerson] is doing. Hopefully participants can take back with them the information they learn.”

Matson said it’s important that conference participants see power-based interpersonal violence as a community issue, not an individual one.

Matson and the two students, Phi Alpha Tau members Chris Dobens ’16 and Alex Clark ’16, will speak about Emerson STANDS, a bystander intervention strategy launched this year by VPR, as well as initiatives launched by Phi Alpha Tau.

Alex Clark '16

Alex Clark '16 is joining fellow Phi Alpha Tau brother Chris Dobens '16 and VPR Director Melanie Matson at the Conference on College Men at UMass Amherst on June 18. (Courtesy Photo)

“Our fraternity this past year wanted to join the fight against sexual assault and interpersonal violence,” said Dobens, president of Phi Alpha Tau for the 2015–2016 year. Dobens is also the co-founder of the iconic “Boston Strong” campaign.

“As future leaders, we want to get more involved in this issue on a national level,” said Dobens, who said the presentation will focus on how fraternities “can contribute to ending this issue and making things better on campuses across America.”

Greeks that Speak

Christian Bergen-Aragon '15 and Chris Dobens '16, pictured here with faculty member Lu Ann Reeb, won second place in the E3 Expo with their “Greeks That Speak” violence prevention and bystander intervention training program idea. (Courtesy Photo)

Dobens and fellow fraternity brothers Christian Bergen-Aragon ’15 and Danny Dranoff ’16 are beginning to form a nonprofit organization, Greeks That Speak, which educates college fraternities on violence prevention and bystander intervention. Dobens and Bergen-Aragon won seed money to begin their organization at the 2015 E3 Expo at Emerson.

Alex Clark ’16 was the Phi Alpha Tau president for 2014–2015. He joined Emerson STANDS earlier this year, and in a previous interview spoke about the importance of fraternities addressing violence prevention.

“When I was elected president of Tau, sexual violence became a prominent issue societally that we needed to tackle,” Clark said. “While Tau is different from most fraternities, those stereotypes exist for a reason. There are organizations allowing this type of violence to happen, but there are fraternities that want to change the conversation.”

Matson said a small percentage of men commit acts of power-based interpersonal violence. She said the goal of their presentation at the conference, which is being held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is to “engage particularly men in fraternities as catalysts of change on their campuses.”

Melanie Matson

Melanie Matson, director of Violence Prevention and Response at Emerson. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

At Emerson, Matson is working with members of student groups who are often seen as leaders among their peers.

“It’s about focusing on social norms,” Matson said. “If people are engaged as active bystanders and call out their friends when they say or do things along that continuum of power-based interpersonal violence, their friends will be responsive to that. Is this acceptable behavior in my community or unacceptable?”