Cal Poly’s fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) held its second annual Greek Goddess competition March 1 in Chumash Auditorium located within the Julian A. McPhee University Union. This pageant-like contest gave one member of each panhellenic house the opportunity to showcase their talent for the chance to win the crown.
While this event was a fun, lighthearted competition among friends, the event’s ultimate aim was to fundraise for a charitable cause while raising awareness about sexual assault.
Teaming up to take a stance
For this year’s Greek Goddess, AEPi teamed up with the Ulzi team. Founded by Cal Poly graduates Maxwell Fong and Elan Timmons, Ulzi is a sexual assault prevention app that contains features to ensure users’ safety.
AEPi President and industrial technology and packaging junior Jordan Weil decided teaming up with Ulzi would be a perfect way to bring attention to an issue so prevalent on college campuses.
AEPi was the first fraternity to have 100 percent of its members pledge to download Ulzi once it launches. According to Weil, the fraternity felt the need to take a stance against an issue that is prevalent at Cal Poly and around the world.
“We really wanted to take a stance against sexual assault and we love what Ulzi is doing,” Weil said. “I think our values align with Ulzi’s in that we are both leaders trying to make a difference.”
Because of this, Weil felt Greek Goddess was the perfect opportunity to reach out to the Ulzi team.
“We’ve kept in contact with them and we thought that this event was the perfect opportunity to reach out,” Weil said. “They loved the idea and hopped onboard immediately.”
According to Fong, he and his team did not hesitate when AEPi proposed the partnership to them. He saw the event as an opportunity to make a joint statement by both organizations.
“We jumped at the opportunity,” Fong said. “The event really represents a lot of greek life in the community by sending representatives to support this issue and coming together against sexual assault and against campus violence.”
Crowning a winner for the competition was partially based on the amount of money each contestant raised for a charity of their choosing. The 2018 Greek Goddess title was given to Alpha Phi’s Peri Baser, an industrial engineering freshman.
By the end of the night, Greek Goddess raised $16,200. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the National Eating Disorder Association, which was the foundation of Baser’s choosing. Another $4,000 will be donated to Rise SLO, a community nonprofit supporting survivors and loved ones of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We could have chosen to donate to a larger organization, but the reason why we chose Rise SLO was because Ulzi is all about community, making direct impact in the community that we’re in,” Fong said.
According to Fong, by donating to Rise SLO, the money will be put towards training greek life leaders to educate and help spread awareness within each chapter.
“That’s going to last a really long time,” Fong said. “We think it’s going to have waves of impact.”
The Greek Goddess contest was just one of many steps in fighting for an end to sexual assault and campus violence.
“It takes a collective whole to make a difference and I think that it begins with Ulzi,” Weil said.
A new kind of personal safety
What began as an awareness campaign started by Cal Poly students has now gained national momentum as what could be considered the future of sexual assault prevention and safety.
After hearing the statistic that one in four college women will be sexually assaulted, Fong and Timmons realized they need to take action.
“When we heard that, it really took us by surprise,” Timmons said. “I mean, that’s a huge number.”
The next step was to take matters into their own hands and survey individuals about safety and personal experiences.
“Right off the bat we learned that even in our close group of friends, that one-in-four statistics really did hold to be true. It was a huge eye-opener for us.”
Timmons and Fong also learned that almost every female Cal Poly student they talked to felt unsafe walking home at night, yet every male student they talked to was unaware that this was a constant fear in the minds of their female peers.
Because of this, the two started a social media awareness campaign. This allowed people to share their personal stories about safety fears and sexual assault. As more individuals spoke up, more individuals felt inspired to step forward and share their own.
The campaign eventually went viral and gained national attention. The next step was seeking prevention for this issue.
According to Fong, the pair felt that in a world where technology has evolved so drastically, there was something missing in terms of personal safety.
“There is so much technology available to us, but people still use pepper spray, people still have their keys in their hands when they’re walking home alone,” Fong said. “The world is changing. So why hasn’t safety?”
Thanks to the help of those who reached out, the Ulzi team was established and received the help of individuals such as Cal Poly students and professionals with experience in security engineering to create an artificial intelligence app.
Essentially, the app works as a GPS and tracking device with a safety net built underneath it.
“If anything ever happens, safety is a button away,” Timmons said.
Each safety feature on the app is designed based on the stories shared by survivors of sexual assault. The features include the ability to plan safe routes, track loved ones who use the app, send police the user’s GPS location, and receive alerts when a loved one leaves or arrives at specific locations.
Ultimately, the San Luis Obispo-based organization strives to change statistics that have remained intact for decades while also calling attention to the issue on a national and international level.
“It’s been a pretty crazy journey,” Fong said. “We’re really excited that this small team of Cal Poly students has the chance to make that huge difference.”
Timmons said the only way to solve the problem of sexual assault is if everyone is conscious of the issue and works together to put an end to it.
“It’s time for a new kind of personal safety that actually harnesses the connectedness of today’s world,” Timmons said.