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USC is resuming frat parties after abuse claims, with guards at the door | California


TO a large number of accusations of sexual violence and drugs prompted officials at the University of Southern California to shut down all frat parties last fall. Now the parties are back, but with new rules.

Security guards will be stationed on stairwells and in public areas, sexual violence and risk prevention trainings will be mandatory for members, and chapters will be required to complete compliance reviews before and after all meetings when they resume in March, according to the details described in an action plan this week.

The new policies, crafted by a fraternity-led committee that includes professors, student government leaders and university officials, came after more than a dozen students confidentially reported to the university that their drinks had been drugged or that they had been assaulted. sexually. Six of the reports were linked to the Sigma Nu fraternity house, that he undertook to cooperate fully with investigations in a statement issued last fall and suspended its chapter president.

Protests erupted in the following weeks as students and teachers demanded accountability and school officials promised they would deliver.

But advocates worry that the new policies will do little to change the underlying toxic culture that has persisted for decades. Some say that security solutions do more to placate parental perceptions than to solve core problems.

“There is a history with this university of not protecting their students when it comes to sexual assault,” says Natalia Parraz, a USC senior and president of a student-run intersectional feminism organization. called USC flow, who led demonstrations. She sees the plan as a “quick fix to a very systemic problem” and expressed frustration that her group’s recommendations, including community-led discussions, were not in the plan.

Parraz is concerned that the university has prioritized public relations over prevention. USC has relied on contracted security observers to mitigate security concerns before, and fraternities are already required to have security guards available during events. Meanwhile, trainings on consent and sexual assault are already being provided, though they’re not mandatory, and “obviously not working,” he says.

USC has resisted closing its fraternities, which are a big part of the school's social scene.
USC has resisted closing its fraternities, which are a big part of the school’s social scene. Photograph: Reed Saxon/AP

Warnings about the risks of attending frat parties at USC have long been passed down among students. It became common knowledge to never leave a drink unattended and female partygoers would often exercise the buddy system to ensure they got home safely.

One-third of female undergraduate students at USC said they had been victims of sexual assault according to a 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities. That is higher than the already amazing national average of one in four female students and 23% of college students are transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary who have reportedly been sexually assaulted, according to statistics compiled by Rainn, an organization against sexual violence.

But the university has resisted closing its fraternities, which are a big part of the school’s social scene. Approximately 4,000 USC students are affiliated with Greek Life and the organizations are also seen as important in providing opportunities for graduate philanthropy, leadership, and networking.

“The Greek community plays an important role in the sense of belonging for many of our students,” the Interfraternity Council task force wrote in a statement. detailing the plan, adding that “it is clear that the social environments within the IFC community require greater attention to security planning and risk prevention.” The IFC, which acts as the board of directors for the fraternities at the university, did not respond to a request for comment. But in a statement issued earlier, the group expressed disgust for the “violence that took place in our community” and said he “deeply apologizes for the trauma caused and the impact on the victims and the University of Southern California community at large.”

The university has placed four IFC fraternities on provisional suspension and a fifth is still under investigation, but others will be able to resume social activities next month if they are found to be in compliance with the new rules.

Laura Palumbo, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Sexual Violence Resource Center, says institutions must commit to changing culture, not just policy.

“Often with fraternities there is a focus on risk management and safety concerns, and it is equally important to think about how to positively shape the environment to promote respect and healthy behaviors,” she says. “Long-standing fraternity or campus cultures that normalize and dismiss sexual abuse cannot be changed overnight.”

USC claims to be in this for the long haul.

“The recommendations made by the university’s IFC Culture, Prevention and Accountability Working Group are part of a action plana university spokesperson said in a statement to The Guardian, noting that a report will be issued at the end of the semester. “The group’s focus now shifts to exploring long-term strategies to improve culture, improve accountability, and address systemic challenges within IFC chapters.”

Parraz, the student advocate, says she hopes their voices are considered and included in the future. “We’re trying to give advice on preventative measures and they’re not really listening,” she says. “The sad reality is that this conversation has taken place every two or four years on campus.”


www.theguardian.com

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