On October 22, 2016 it was reported that fraternities and sororities at the University of California Berkeley had enacted a self-imposed ban of all fraternity and sorority parties following police reports of two female university students being assaulted at off-campus fraternity parties during the previous weekend.
The initial report did not provide any details about the circumstances of the alleged sexual assaults, nor did it identify the two fraternities where the assaults purportedly occurred. It was also not clear whether the assaults were perpetuated by fraternity members.
The UC Berkeley campus was the subject of 22 reported rapes occurring on-campus or in student housing in 2015, as well as 4 reported off-campus rapes. Berkeley administration has also been the subject of outrage concerning how it has handled sexual harassment allegations against high-profile faculty members.
The Ban on Greek Parties Lifted
Four days after enacting the party ban, on October 26, 2016, it was reported that the ban had been lifted after Greek representatives met and enacted new rules designed to make parties safer. According to an article in SFGATE, at least three sober monitors will be required for every party, and it is possible that more monitors may be required depending upon the size of the party and the number of attendees.
Trained members will also hold brief “consent talks” with groups entering parties, although the article did not provide information as to the specific information to be provided in the “consent talk.”
Will the New Rules Make a Difference?
It is yet to be seen whether these new rules will work. Hopefully, these rules will not be treated as many past party rules and guidelines at colleges which have been subsequently ignored after being adopted.
Some have criticized the new efforts as a move in the wrong direction – relying upon the historically responsible fraternities to police themselves. Others view this as a step in the right direction, believing that increasing the awareness of sexual assault on campus and the need to take proactive measure will help decrease (and hopefully eliminate) future sexual assaults.
Unfortunately, sexual assaults at UC Berkeley continue. UC Berkeley data indicates that 80 incidents of sexual violence were reported through August of this year, up from 70 reports during all of 2015 and 56 reports during 2014. It’s not clear from these reports whether sexual assaults are actually increasing, or that more assaults are being reported.
What is clear is that even one sexual assault is one too many.
What Should Be Done
Rules that are not enforced are meaningless, which has long been the case on many college campuses with respect to fraternity drinking and parties. This must change.
It should be apparent to every freshman upon entering a college or university campus what the law is, and what the consequences will be, for sexual assault. Then, these rules must be enforced.
Many young men (typically age 18 when they start college) have never had training about boundaries and what, exactly, constitutes a sexual assault. Some believe that sexual assaults are only committed by evil people who may wait in back alleys for a victim. So, as long as they are with a woman they know, everything is OK. Obviously this is not the case.
Colleges and universities must step up their efforts to educate all students at the outset of their collegiate careers so that there is a common, and universally-known, definition of sexual assault. Such education should also include what steps can be taken to help prevent sexual assault, and how it is incumbent upon all students to ensure the safety of all who are on campus.