Campus fraternities take steps to prevent sexual assault in Greek system

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Update 10/18/2014: The rape charge against an individual mentioned in this story was dismissed. Read more here.

Update 11/6/2018: An individual’s name has been retracted from this article because The Daily Californian was sent documentation that they received a factual finding of innocence from an Alameda County Superior Court judge. 

Amid a federal investigation into UC Berkeley’s handling of sexual assault cases, the Interfraternity Council released a statement Aug. 28 saying it has not taken sufficient action to prevent sexual harassment and violence in the Greek community.

The statement was specifically in response to a vandalism spree on campus in late August, one message of which equated fraternities with rape. Since releasing the statement, the council has aimed to institute new programs and positions to address sexual assault and sexual violence within the Greek community, although some sexual assault advocates say more needs to be done.

Among these changes, the council, which oversees the 33 campus-recognized fraternities, proposes mandatory sexual assault awareness programs, individual chapter training and a vice president of wellness, whose responsibilities would include educating the community about sexual assault and violence.

In a state audit published in June, the state auditor found that in analyzing sexual assault cases and campus responses at UC Berkeley, there was no sexual assault training for fraternities and sororities in addition to university-required training. Out of the 80 analyzed sexual assault cases at UC Berkeley, UCLA, CSU Chico and San Diego State University, 20 cases involved sorority or fraternity members or occurred at a fraternity- or sorority-sponsored event.

The audit recommended more sexual assault awareness training focused on fraternities and sororities.

Jackson Allison, president of the council, said the council is in dialogue with multiple organizations within the campus community about combating the issue. The IFC also recently modified its constitution, enforcing a mandatory policy for each fraternity to undergo sexual assault training at the beginning of each semester.

“The most constructive way to move forward is through these campus wide interactions, as well as realizing that this is not simply a Greek-wide issue, but a campus-wide issue as well,” Allison said in an email.

Despite these changes, many are critical about whether the IFC’s actions are enough.

“The main problem is that people don’t really understand what consent looks like,” said ASUC Senator Haley Broder.

Two separate instances of sexual assault at fraternities Sept. 27 were reported to police, in addition to a third sexual assault that may have also occurred at a fraternity. Police arrested a UC Berkeley student, 20, on suspicion of raping a woman who could not resist due to intoxication. Authorities arrested him after serving a search warrant at campus fraternity Delta Upsilon, of which the student has been an active member.

“It has been very disheartening to hear of these incidents, which are totally unacceptable and unworthy of us as a university,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

Meghan Warner, director of the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission and co-chair of Greeks Against Sexual Assault, said that she is happy fraternities are now acknowledging this as an “issue within the system” but emphasized that fraternities need to take more action.

A survivor of sexual assault, Warner expressed her discontent in particular with the Stop Sexual Violence banners some fraternity houses are displaying, saying that they are not actually addressing the issue.

“They are treating it like a public relations move rather than as an issue that is hurting people,” she said.

Campus fraternity Kappa Alpha Order currently displays one of these banners. Fraternity president Ryan Keane said the chapter is taking multiple steps to address sexual assault, such as participating in IFC’s sexual assault awareness workshop.

“The first step that we’ve taken as a chapter is addressing it in our chapter meetings,” Keane said in an email. “Openly talking about sexual violence, the importance of respecting women, and conducting ourselves appropriately especially when alcohol is involved are things we bring up every time that we are all together. Brothers know to take responsibility for their own actions and be wary of others’ actions when they enter our home.”

Both Broder and Warner stressed the importance of a proper educational foundation and complete participation and effort by the council. Warner said that out of the 60 people in the Greeks Against Sexual Assault organization, only four were from the IFC.

“Consent is sexy?” Broder said. “No. It is mandatory.”

Becca Benham covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beccabenhamdc.