This university’s Alpha Sigma Phi chapter gained official recognition as a Safe Haven last night, becoming the nation’s first fraternity to have members trained in taking an active stance against human trafficking.
National grassroots movement Safe Haven Campaign: Interfaith Alliance to Abolish Human Trafficking trains volunteers to recognize the signs of human trafficking, guide survivors to seek help and educate communities on the issue.
Louise Dickson, the volunteer coordinator for the organization in this state, presented the fraternity with a plaque that commemorates the work of the four members who completed a four-hour training program with her on behalf of the organization.
“[Alpha Sigma Phi] is a stellar example of building the better man and taking initiative to address this public issue of great concern,” Dickson said. “My hope is that this initiative will spread and duplicate based on the efforts of these young men today.”
Though the house was officially named a Safe Haven last night, that doesn’t mean it will be a place for victims to stay or receive treatment, Dickson said.
“A Safe Haven is a community of people who have the awareness, the information and the tools to help connect victims to those who can help them,” Dickson said. “And [it is people] who are actively promoting public awareness of the issue.”
Zack Anstett, Alpha Sigma Phi’s community service director, said he reached out to Dickson last semester because he thought the organization — part of the Global Peace Foundation — would be a valuable volunteer partnership for the fraternity.
Anstett, one of the four members who completed the training, said he thought this partnership could help change the stigma surrounding fraternities as well as fraternity members’ actions now and in the future.
“The lack of education is the issue,” said Anstett, a senior English major. “Students won’t stay in College Park [forever], and we’re going to be able to look out for signs of trafficked, abused women, men and children. We’ll be able to identify those signs and hopefully help those people.”
Junior neurobiology and physiology major Kodiak Carb became invested in the issue when Anstett presented the fraternity with the option to volunteer with Safe Haven. Through conferences, research and educating others, Carb volunteered for 50 hours with the Safe Haven Campaign.
“I didn’t know this was happening in my backyard; I always thought it’s something you see in a Third World country or something,” he said. “I had no idea the extent to where it occurred.”
The fraternity’s Safe Haven recognition means more to Carb than just the education — it is the chance to change a negative culture among fraternities, he said.
“If you say something enough and if you get everyone involved in something bigger, it becomes tradition, it becomes culture, it becomes the way that we do things,” Carb said. “And the way that we do things is we treat people equally.”
Alpha Sigma Phi is planning a 12-hour sit-in in April on Fraternity Row, in which organizations from across the campus, notably Greek life organizations, will “sit down to stand up to sexual assault,” Anstett said.
Dickson plans to bring this campaign to that event, as well as additional speakers and organizations invested in combating this issue.
The fraternity members also plan to bring the campaign to other interested Greek life chapters through the Safe Haven study series. Carb is planning to start another education program for more members of the chapter, and he said 10 members expressed interest after the organization’s recognition ceremony.
“It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of stories about fraternity men painted in a bad light,” said Angelo Bavaro, Alpha Sigma Phi’s president and a sophomore journalism major. “It’s one thing to stand up against something, but it’s another thing to take the initiative.”