Content warning: Sexual violence
On Saturday, members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, or Fiji, in Berkeley stood around individuals protesting acts of sexual violence and assault and jokingly posed for a picture.
In doing so, they communicated a level of abject disrespect for survivor narratives that is almost beyond belief — and yet, no one is surprised. The photograph is simply visual proof of what fraternity members have demonstrated on this campus time and time again: Members of UC Berkeley’s Greek system are simply not taking sexual assault seriously.
Greek life is insular, archaic and toxic. Men in fraternities have been found to be three times more likely to rape, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. And yet, few — if any — fraternities are appropriately disciplined for these violent crimes. Fraternities are held to such a low level of accountability that misogyny grows and spreads, seemingly unfettered.
The photo of the Fiji brothers was made public in a Facebook post by a former UC Berkeley fraternity member, who called upon the Greek community to recognize its complicity in this failing system. And he’s right: If you are a member of the Greek system, you are complicit in upholding antiquated, sexist and deeply problematic values. Ultimately, you are part of a community that has repeatedly swept sexual assaults under the rug, that has allowed these assaults to go unchecked and that is publicly participating in the humiliation of those who stand in protest of this violence.
Although members of the Greek system have made impressive strides in changing the culture and attitudes of members within the community, these reforms have clearly been insufficient so far. And others capable of holding fraternities accountable — the Interfraternity Council, or IFC; campus administration; the ASUC; even the national fraternity chapters — have accomplished next to nothing concrete.
Twelve allegations of sexual assault and drugging at the UC Berkeley chapter of Sigma Chi resulted in nothing more than a mere slap on the wrist — a punishment of social probation from the IFC. The UC Berkeley administration took no action — Sigma Chi wasn’t suspended or even flagged. And even when administrators do declare a fraternity “unaffiliated,” this seems to do little besides allow UC Berkeley to distance itself from rampant problems occurring just feet away from the campus.
Currently, the UC Berkeley Center for Student Conduct has a page categorizing fraternities and sororities into three categories — “gold star,” flagged and unregistered — in an attempt to “encourage students to make informed decisions.” But nowhere on this page does the campus explicitly recognize the myriad sexual assault allegations that certain fraternities face — in fact, Sigma Chi is still listed as a “gold star” fraternity. Apparently, multiple accusations of sexual violence isn’t enough to bump them off the list.
The moment freshmen arrive on campus, they are barraged with rumors and advice on which houses to avoid and which houses have reputations for perpetuating sexual violence. Not only does this do little to protect vulnerable individuals from sexual violence, it also normalizes egregious behavior.
It’s time for all members of the Greek community to recognize the violence that takes place within the system they are a part of. It’s time for fraternities to recognize that the changes they claim to have been making are inadequate and demonstratively insufficient.
On sexual violence, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.