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We are part of the problem, we will be part of the solution

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NOVEMBER 07, 2014

Update 11/13/2018: An individual’s name has been retracted from this article because The Daily Californian was sent documentation that they received a factual finding of innocence from an Alameda County Superior Court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. 

As the vice president of external affairs for the Interfraternity Council, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the steps we are taking as an organization to address the growing issue of sexual assault on our campus. Unfortunately, this is an issue that has always been present in the UC Berkeley community, and it is equally unfortunate that the deplorable events of the past several weeks occurred before serious changes could be made on this campus. Nevertheless, I can confidently say that serious changes are on the way.

First, on behalf of every fraternity man on this campus, I would like to commend the victims of these assaults for speaking out. I can scarcely imagine the courage it takes to come forward after such a traumatic event, and as an organization, we will be committed to supporting survivors in any way we can. With this in mind, the IFC will remain committed to a zero-tolerance policy — we hold ourselves to a high standard, and anyone found guilty of sexual violence has no place in our community. That being said, it is crucial to maintain confidentiality during the legal process. The recent exoneration of a UC Berkeley student reminds us of the damaging effects a high-profile trial process can have on someone’s life. Again, I cannot stress enough that the IFC encourages victims to exercise their right to report, and I am in no way blaming the victim for coming forward. I am, however, calling on the media and Berkeley Police Department to exercise greater discretion during the trial period given the serious nature of these allegations. It isn’t fair to victims seeking justice, and it isn’t fair to our colleagues to turn the legal process into a proverbial witch hunt.

In addition to supporting survivors, our organization has unanimously passed two constitutional amendments to educate members about new consent laws and to train them in active bystander intervention. In nearly every instance of sexual assault, people saw the perpetrator interact with the victim and did not intervene either because they didn’t know what to look for or how to act. In order to ensure that our members have this crucial information, every IFC-affiliated chapter will be required to participate in consent and active bystander training every semester. This new training is in addition to the newly expanded educational programming our members receive from the LEAD Center and the university. We have also created a new health and safety position dedicated to providing educational opportunities for the entire campus throughout the term. Given a greater knowledge of the topic, our members and other students will be able to identify and act in these situations to prevent violence in the future.

As this issue is not limited to the fraternity community on our campus, we have been working with a variety of organizations to ensure that the IFC is a part of a larger effort to halt sexual violence on campus. While drafting the above-mentioned changes, chapter presidents and IFC executive members invited representatives from Greeks Against Sexual Assault, Panhellenic Council, the ASUC Senate, the Gender Equity Resource center, the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Panhellenic Council to give their input and raise potential concerns. Outside student organizations, our efforts to increase education have received support from administrators within the university, including President Napolitano and Dean Greenwell. As a part of our ongoing effort to improve the safety of our community, CalGreeks will be hosting a forum on sexual assault Nov. 18. This event will place a number of administrators from the university, student leaders and fraternity and sorority national consultants into a discussion setting where we will pursue new methods to make our community increasingly safe for everyone. By pursuing an active dialogue with these partners, we hope to ensure that our solutions are derived from community feedback to tackle this community problem.

Like every other student on this campus, our members are outraged by each report of sexual violence, fraternity related or not. Our system is part of the problem, and the continuation of these assaults is evidence that we have not done enough in the past to prevent them from happening. Having said that, we are now pursuing rigorous education requirements in order to change that culture. We are providing every fraternity man on this campus with the most comprehensive education available in order to stop these heinous acts. We look forward to partnering with The Daily Californian, CalTV and other organizations to help us spread additional education about these issues throughout the community. While we are in the process of implementing these reforms, we ask for your continued support as fellow students. If you are interested in have any questions about these changes or about the Greek community in general, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

James Stewart is the vice president of external affairs of the IFC.

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NOVEMBER 13, 2018