Are UCLA Fraternities Working Toward a Safer Campus for Women?

Design by Jenny Dodge

On Jan. 17, the UCLA Interfraternity Council (IFC) banned alcohol at all in-house events, and thus brought an end to notorious Thursday night frat parties for the foreseeable future. This ban was enacted after fourth-year fraternity member Benjamin Orr was arrested on charges of sexual assault. But according to rumors circulating within UCLA Greek life over the past few months, this incident was far from the only trigger.

Amidst a growing wave of sexual assault accusations in the media, sexual violence has become a more common topic of discussion. In a society where roughly two out of three rapes go unreported, it is nearly impossible to know the extent to which assaults are occurring on our campus. Reports of campus rapes to UCPD more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. Whether this reflects an increase in incidents or a greater tendency for survivors to come forward is unknown.

IFC President Noah Mayer emphasized his council’s dedication to improving the fraternity culture and ending sexual assaults in Greek life. Mayer said, “There’s a lot of changes coming, hopefully changes that will leave lasting positive impact.” He listed possibilities for reform such as third-party security guards and well-defined boundaries during parties, potentially restricting access to bedrooms. While these proposals are well-intended, they are ultimately Band-Aid solutions to a problem that is inherently embedded in fraternity culture, as Mayer acknowledged.

When asked about the rumored fall quarter date-rape drugging and sexual assault allegations in IFC fraternity houses, Mayer said, “I can confirm that there were (allegations), but what I can’t confirm, because there’s no statistical evidence, is that there were more or less than before.” Of course, the fact that any of these terrible crimes occurred at all is shameful, regardless of comparisons to previous years.

Mayer was unable to comment on the status of ongoing investigations, citing interference with the IFC judicial process. Three years ago, IFC only investigated one allegation the entire year. Last year, they investigated 27. Mayer could not speak as to whether or not police are involved as well.

UCLA Pi Beta Phi President Peyton Van Riper stated that she was aware of fall quarter fraternity drugging and assault allegation numbers in the double digits.

Van Riper was Vice President of Event Planning for Pi Beta Phi last quarter and stated that IFC and Panhellenic Council postponed scheduling fraternity-sorority social events because every IFC fraternity had to submit a new “risk management” policy beforehand. IFC’s risk management bylaws contain all of their regulations for safely hosting events and are not solely limited to assault prevention. Mayer, who was president of Alpha Epsilon Pi last quarter, said that his fraternity did not rewrite their risk management policy. They faced no consequences.

In response to a Daily Bruin editorial calling for the end of fraternity parties with alcohol, Mayer  said that the Greek community still wants to return to hosting in-house events, but in a safer manner. While calls to eliminate fraternities are nothing new, as UCLA becomes more aware of sexual assault incidents (and perhaps more fearful of the implications for its reputation), this outcome seems perhaps more realistic now than in previous years.

Rape-prevention programs for fraternity men can make a difference in the number of sexual assault occurrences. However, both Mayer and Van Riper, as well as several other members of Greek life, expressed disappointment with the current mandatory programming. The program is put together without input from fraternities or sororities, and is known for being ineffective and disappointing to Greek life members.

For instance, many sorority members were frustrated with being required to attend last year’s workshop, which focused solely on toxic masculinity and did not touch on the issues that they had wanted to see covered, such as bystander intervention in sexual assault prevention. Furthermore, the workshop was scheduled immediately following a popular fraternity event, and a sizable proportion of the attendees were drunk, creating an environment that was offensive in its unproductivity.

While it is unknown whether the mandatory programming for all of Greek life will be restructured, there are plans for other educational programs for fraternity men in the works. Mayer said, “We’re changing our education strategy. Right now there’s one New Member Forum every quarter for all the new members. We’re switching that to four, and all four are mandatory. Each one is going to cover a different topic, being sexual assault, alcohol and drug abuse, toxic masculinity, and whatever we decide on a fourth topic, just to try to build a more well-rounded education.” While the classes are not yet fully planned out, programs promoting empathy for survivors and techniques for bystander intervention have been shown to be effective.

Mayer added that IFC stands behind every sexual assault survivor and hopes to work toward both encouraging a safe environment for survivors to report and eradicating sexual assault on campus entirely. He did not specify how IFC supports survivors. He stressed the importance of changing the Greek life climate and member lifestyles in order to prevent sexual violence.

Whether or not IFC will succeed in overhauling fraternity culture, and whether those changes will be enough to protect women on our campus, remains to be seen.

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