Olivia Proffit and Leah Horner
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Since last weekend’s reported sexual assault, fraternities and sororities have been put on social probation, meaning all social events are banned but sisterhood and brotherhood events and meetings within the houses are allowed. Fraternities and sororities will be on probation for the next 30 days until they come up with an action plan to stop sexual assault in the greek community, at which point Cal Poly will revisit the issue. Panhellenic Council President Kristen Henry, Interfraternity Council (IFC) president Alex Horncliff and Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president Joi Sullivan have responded to the issue.
Sexual assault is a school-wide issue, but sororities and fraternities have been in the spotlight. Why do you think that is?
“It is an issue that affects the entire Cal Poly community, but these incidents did occur at greek events. So it’s not to say that we have been targeted, but this is a chance for us to step back and make some changes to return to the values that the organizations were founded upon.” – Henry
“It’s not isolated in the greek community but the past few instances have been found there. In order to make a culture change, we need to stop what’s actually happening, try figure out how to fix it and move on from there. I think that the time to make change is over the next 30 days while they are on probation.” – Sullivan
Some have said that victims may be afraid to speak up to avoid being the reason greek life suffers any more punishments. How do you respond to that?
“They need to understand that we are a resource for them. If all of greek life gets suspended because of sexual assault, that’s not a bad thing. Sexual assault is a big problem and that is the primary problem that needs to be solved. We need to be held accountable for the result of those actions. We want survivors to know that their piece of mind, their comfort, their ability to feel comfortable for the rest of their lives with their stories is more important than the survival of our chapters and the culture we are breeding that allows that kind of culture in a house.” – Horncliff
“One of our main goals is to be resources for victims of sexual assault. If we are looking to prevent it, we also have to support the people who have been directly affected by it. Whether that’s through intensive education programs or bystander training, we are looking at all of the options to address the problems from start to end.” – Henry
Do you think it’s fair to punish all of greek life, rather than the individual houses involved in the assaults?
“Everyone understands why this is important. We all agree that this is a problem on our campus and we need to work together to solve it. One chapter can’t solve it; I can’t solve it; my exec board can’t solve it. It’s going to take every greek person to understand and take ownership of the problem.” – Horncliff
“I respect the university’s decision … By standing together and working as one team, we have the opportunity to make a big impact on the community than one house on their own. We need to put our resources together to make a difference for all the members of the greek community as opposed to any individual house.” – Henry
“I agree with the decision to put them on social probation. This decision is a wake-up call not only for the greek community but the entire Cal Poly community that a culture change needs to happen … We are talking about people’s lives. It would be negligent not to do everything you could to try to shift this culture from allowing this to happen.” – Sullivan
Sexual assault is such a big issue. Do you have confidence that whatever plan you come up with will actually work?
“I do. I think we have an opportunity to make a big difference and to really ensure the welfare of our members, which is the biggest thing. We have to make sure that our members are safe and comfortable.” – Henry
“I can make the first step. If I could stop sexual assault on our campus, that would be great. But it starts here. It starts with leadership and it starts with recognizing a problem and knowing that we need to find a solution.” – Horncliff
“I think a large part of it is a character issue. And character is very difficult to change. At the end of the day, there may be people that are lacking certain characteristics and don’t see this as an issue. I think there is a way to lessen it, yes. Get rid of it entirely? Probably not … But the students we have here are quality people, so I think that’s why I’m a little more optimistic about this.” — Sullivan
Were you aware of the second and third reported sexual assaults when you spoke at the IFC meeting on Monday?
“I was aware of the sexual assault that happened last quarter and at the beginning of this quarter. I was unaware about the third assault until yesterday.” – Henry
“I made the announcement with knowledge of the second sexual assault, though the chapter’s name has not been told to me. I was unaware of the third assault.” – Horncliff
Do you think these incidents will affect Cal Poly’s image?
“I would really hope that everyone in the Cal Poly community would take this seriously and use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and think very seriously about the issues of sexual assault on our own campus.” — Henry
“I would hate to see that define Cal Poly … The entire Cal Poly community reacts and attacks will be indicative of how seriously this is taken and that will have an effect on the school’s reputation. My challenge to the whole community is to get past the ‘me’ factor and look at the whole picture and think about how we can change this and how we can get going.” — Sullivan
What do you have to say to anybody who has been a victim of sexual assault?
“I would never ask them to go out and talk about their story. I do want them to know that IFC stands behind the survivor 100 percent. We are a resource to her and we want to make sure that she understands that whatever happens to our fraternities is our fault. We are accountable for our actions. But what comes first is the safety of students. We care about her more than we care about our reputation.” – Horncliff
“I would encourage them to report it if they feel that that’s the best thing for them. I would encourage them to not think about any policy or greek life implications but to disregard those things and think about what’s best for the survivor herself. At the end of the day, it’s the individual member we are looking out for.” – Henry
The headline and text of this article have been changed to say the sexual assaults were reported. They have not been proven from a legal standpoint.