For years, Greek community leadership knew about repeated allegations of drugging and sexual assault at the UC Berkeley chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity, but they didn’t take official action until this week. It’s infuriating and baffling, but nobody’s surprised.
Only after The Daily Californian made several inquiries about these allegations did the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, standards board — which oversees all campus-affiliated fraternities — place Sigma Chi on social probation.
Social probation? Seriously? That’s nothing more than a slap on the wrist, like sending a child to bed without supper. Only in this case, the child is a fraternity whose members allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted people.
Student leaders in the IFC have displayed an astounding lack of leadership and moral clarity. It’s only when word got out that they tried to save their asses with half-hearted apologies and lackluster punishments — and to be clear, the punishment most certainly does not fit the crime.
Sexual assault in fraternities is not a new phenomenon: Journalists and advocates have been speaking out against this issue for decades, and it seems like UC Berkeley students talk about it at least every other semester. Each time an incident like the ones at Sigma Chi pops up, fraternities feign humility, release poorly thought-out statements and pledge that they’re working to solve the issue. And then what? Everything goes back to normal. Students pushing for change are brushed aside, and abhorrent crimes continue.
Until the IFC proves that it can make structural changes, Greek students deserve leaders who will step in and take charge, whether that be Chancellor Carol Christ, the ASUC or the coalition Greeks Against Sexual Assault. Fraternities need to be held accountable until they themselves, as well as their members, take responsibility for their actions.
For one thing, currently, the Panhellenic Council, or PHC, and the IFC both lack a standard reporting and investigation process for responding to these types of allegations — which members of GASA recently pointed to as the lynchpin of the problem. But in their statements about the Sigma Chi allegations, neither the PHC nor the IFC proposed actionable solutions to create this structural change.
If the Greek community actually wanted to respond to incidents of sexual violence, it would, at the very least, create clear channels to direct survivors to the campus Title IX office or PATH to Care Center. The IFC needs to establish institutionalized mechanisms — perhaps through the hiring of expert investigators — that ensure anonymously reported incidents will be reviewed as part of a concrete process, rather than just temporarily (and insufficiently) reprimanding accused fraternities.
But a new reporting process isn’t enough. While it’s an important first step, members of the Greek community must engage in a culture shift that stops sexual violence from happening in the first place.
Canceling sorority participation in one Sigma Chi charity event and promising more consent talks (when so many men in fraternities refuse to take them seriously and perpetrators may already be inside the house hosting the party) isn’t going to fix the rampant misogyny and abuse prevalent in the Greek system.
In the last few months alone, Harvard University’s president cracked down on fraternities and Florida State University banned Greek life entirely. In Tennessee, a state legislator wrote a bill to ban Greek life throughout state. Should UC Berkeley’s Greek system be next?
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.