Tuesday, March 31

Student files lawsuit against UCLA fraternities, alleging sexual assault

A UCLA student filed a lawsuit against two fraternities after being sexually assaulted by a Zeta Beta Tau member in 2016. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Suzanne Taylor's name.

This post was updated Aug. 31 at 10:25 p.m.

A UCLA student filed a sexual assault lawsuit against two UCLA fraternities, the UCLA Interfraternity Council and a former student on Aug. 10.

Zeta Beta Tau, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the IFC and former ZBT member Blake Lobato are facing charges of negligence, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress after a current female UCLA student filed charges against them in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The name of the student was not disclosed in court records.

According to court documents obtained by the Daily Bruin, the student attended a party hosted by SAE in August 2016, where she encountered Lobato. Despite being visibly intoxicated, the student claimed Lobato encouraged her to continue drinking from a bottle of vodka.

The documents showed that an investigation conducted by the UCLA Title IX office prior to the court filings concluded Lobato had statutorily raped another female student in the fall of 2015.

Keith Fink, the attorney representing the student filing the suit, said Lobato conceded to consuming alcohol and having sex with both women during the Title IX investigation. Though Lobato said he engaged in consensual sex, the Title IX office found this claim disputable, Fink said.

“Both of these women filed with Title IX office, and though it took a long time, the Title IX office had an investigator, Suzanne Taylor, who investigated both of these matters and found him to be not credible and both of these girls to be credible,” Fink said.

The student filing the lawsuit left SAE to return home around midnight but was having trouble walking and went back to the fraternity. There she again encountered Lobato, who encouraged her to go to ZBT with him to “hang out,” according to court documents.

Upon reaching ZBT, Lobato invited the student to spend the night, which she agreed to because she was tired and intoxicated, according to the student. Lobato offered the student her own bed to sleep in alone.

According to the court documents, Lobato climbed on top of her and assaulted her while she was coming in and out of consciousness. The student attempted to physically resist Lobato and shouted for help.

After the incident, the student reported the assault to the then-ZBT president. However, the assault was not investigated at the time, according to the document, and Lobato was not reprimanded. The case was handed to Irving Chase, a ZBT board member and lawyer, who attempted to dissuade the student from filing a complaint with UCLA.

When the student later discovered another female UCLA student that had been assaulted by Lobato, she reported it to the new ZBT president, who promised to remove him from the fraternity. The incident was also reported to UCLA’s Title IX office, which prompted an investigation into the matter.

Lobato was removed from ZBT in January 2017. According to the court documents, after Lobato was expelled from the fraternity, he threatened to kill the student.
After the threats were made on the student’s life, the UCLA Title IX office investigated both complaints against Lobato and found him guilty of violating the student conduct code. Lobato was expelled from UCLA in November 2017.

Fink said he hopes the lawsuit will change policies regarding underage alcohol consumption within UCLA and the Interfraternity Council.

“In this toxic environment and proximity of young males, alcohol and young women coming to fraternities where they know there’s going to be drinking and underage drinking, there needs to be in place strict policies and strict mechanisms to prevent this sort of thing from happening,” Fink said.

These policies would include third-party security for Greek-life events, servers that are unaffiliated with UCLA or the UCLA Greek system and mandatory sexual-violence prevention training, Fink said.

“They could have training, real training, about alcohol and sexual violence. The fraternities don’t have real training, the members aren’t required to come or forced to come,” Fink said.

“I think sometimes they say they are out to protect women because they have a 20-minute speech on sexual assault, but its not a real speech circling (sexual violence) and members are not required to attend.

Neither ZBT nor SAE provided a statement, saying it was their policy not to comment on pending or threatened litigation.

City and Crime editor

Coneeny is the 2018-2019 assistant News editor for the City and Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for the National News and Higher Education beat. She is a second-year pre-global studies student from the east coast.

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  • Josh

    Can’t say this is a surprise at ZBT

    • Kenneth

      ZBT is known for this. I’m sure it’s happened to more than two students at that house

    • Linda

      Don’t forget SAE – Sexual Assault Expected

  • Cody

    Judging by the complaint, it appears that Fink remains ever vigilant in his efforts to protect us Bruins. He was an outstanding professor here and it’s heartening to hear that he continues to help the Bruin community.

    This seems like another case in which Jerry Kang’s Title 9 department pays lip service to “protecting” women on campus, but in reality only acts when they’re forced to. Where is the transparency in Vice Chancellor Kang’s office? They have known about these assaults yet did too little, too late.

    • Kenneth

      UCLA is obviously trying to sweep under the rug instances of sexual assault, not only to make Kang’s office look better but ALSO to minimize the number of incidents that the university has to report under the CLERY Act (which requires colleges to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information). Time to clean house not just at the fraternities but also VC Kang’s office.

  • Linda

    this Lawsuit is frightening. As others have said, UCLA appears complicit in sweeping these sexual assaults under the rug. All the while, the office of equity, diversity, and inclusion gets an ever-expanding budget? as a female student at this campus I am disgusted.

    We need to disband the fraternities. They are nothing more than school-sponsored gangs.