ASUC president criticizes fraternities for feeble response to sexual assault

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

To begin, I expect more from The Daily Californian than a short questionnaire gauging the ASUC’s views on the existence of social fraternities. The Daily Californian should know better than anyone else the importance of nuance, especially when it comes to issues as serious as sexual violence.

Diminishing ASUC perspectives to binary responses in place of what should be a complex conversation and investigation is not only reductive, but it also suggests a lack of commitment to thorough, unbiased reporting. Additionally, the publication’s approach to reporting about Sigma Chi and recent accounts of sexual violence has been reckless, aiding in the retraumatization of survivors for the paper’s own notoriety.

Regardless, I believe that elected officials have an obligation to provide clear and direct answers to questions regarding their stances on such pressing issues. In light of this, I would like to take time to expand on my provided answers.

I believe that the ASUC has a responsibility to protect all students from all forms of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, stalking and assault. If this behavior is occurring at a disproportionately high rate in some areas of our campus community, that needs to be addressed.

Time and time again, the social fraternities at UC Berkeley have proven that they are unwilling to address individual incidents of sexual violence within their fraternal communities or make meaningful changes to the culture of toxic masculinity that perpetuates this violence systemically. Seeing that this is the case, the ASUC must support and participate in any efforts to hold social fraternities accountable.

I believe that no student group, organization or entity, social fraternity or otherwise, should be eligible for ASUC funding if they do not demonstrate that they are actively working to combat sexual violence and to respond to incidents properly and in a timely manner. I will be looking into policy changes that can reflect this.

UC Berkeley’s Interfraternity Council has a demonstrated a lengthy track record of “punishing” social fraternities with social probation after incidences of sexual violence. This is far from a strong enough response to such egregious acts of violence, and it indicates that the Interfraternity Council does not have the ability or willingness to adequately govern itself.

The question regarding whether UC Berkeley administrators, such as Chancellor Carol Christ, should intervene when the IFC does not adequately respond to cases of sexual violence requires serious interrogation. We believe that the IFC needs more oversight because of their disappointing track record of response; however, we also understand the history of the UC Berkeley administration’s own inadequate response to cases of sexual violence.

For example, a decision was released last week by the Department of Education that UC Berkeley has failed to comply with Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination, in cases of sexual violence since at least 2011.

The question of whether or not all-male environments should exist on our campus is a long and complicated conversation that deserves more than a yes or no answer. However, what we do know is that the way social fraternities operate now does not provide meaningful positive contributions to our campus community as a whole and instead promotes the normalization of rape culture through sexism, misogyny and violence, while enforcing dangerous stereotypes about masculinity and femininity.

Although fraternities may have recently implemented consent talks, it is evident in light of recent events and pervasive sexual violence norms that we must demand that more be done to protect the campus community. We need to hold these organizations accountable as well as continue supporting the work done to challenge this culture. Survivors deserve better.

It is time for us all to seriously re-evaluate the role social fraternities have on this campus.

Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris is the 2017-18 ASUC president. Marandah Field-Elliot is the ASUC president’s chief of staff and a member of the first ASUC Sexual Violence Commission, established in 2014.