Created by two fraternity brothers who recognized the important role they and their peers play in creating a safe campus for all, the Ethos program has been steadily growing in popularity since its inception in 2014. Through the program, fraternity brothers work to help create a positive culture change and become part of the solution in preventing sexual violence.
Named after the ancient Greek word meaning character, Ethos was founded in the fall of 2014 by students who wanted to address the role fraternity men can play in preventing sexual violence. According to Reid Billings ’18, Ethos founders and WPI alums Elliot Wiegman and Ken McPherson first recognized a need for more conversation and awareness about sexual violence on college campuses.
Wiegman and McPherson then advocated for staff support to build a program that would encourage participation in sexual violence prevention. “Elliot and Ken wanted other fraternity men to be a part of the solution instead of the problem,” says assistant director for violence prevention Kate Richey.
Richey worked with the students as well as six other fraternity men to create a curriculum for the program. Held during A and D terms, the six-week program consists of hour-long sessions that double as interactive training workshops. Each session covers a different topic, ranging from ideas about masculinity and sexual violence to taking preventative measures against it and supporting survivors.
“Ethos is entirely voluntary, and is open to any fraternity man who is interested in the program,” Richey says. “Participants are typically nominated by past participants, and facilitators specifically seek out emerging leaders across each of the chapters at WPI.”
Billings, who serves as de facto student leader for the program, hopes that these sessions inspire a positive culture change on campus as fraternity men recognize and understand the negative effects of toxic masculinity.
“I want to see this program have a genuine impact,” he says. “It’s important for men, especially fraternity men, to examine whether their actions, both individually and institutionally, may create a potentially unsafe environment.”
“Ethos and our other prevention efforts are meant to get the process started and it’s inspiring to see our students take what they learn and shape their own campus culture.” -Matt Barry
During the sessions, assistant director for community development Matt Barry, who serves as staff leader for the program, explains that fraternity men will not only discuss their values and how they’re connected to preventing sexual violence, but also conjoin their values with those of their respective fraternities.
“My hope for the program is that the men who go through the training come out wanting and able to have these conversations within their chapters,” he says. “If they’re out there and they are bringing these things up to their brothers and having these conversations, it’s an irreplaceable part of the equation. It does something that no scheduled program or training can do on its own. Ethos and our other prevention efforts are meant to get the process started and it’s inspiring to see our students take what they learn and shape their own campus culture.”
- By Kristy Pan