UCLA seems to have forgotten that the Interfraternity Council is run by children.
Over the summer, the campus community was once again reminded of the problem of sexual violence in the Greek system when a student filed a sexual assault lawsuit against the IFC, the Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities, and Blake Lobato, a former member of ZBT found by UCLA to have committed statutory rape. Court documents allege ZBT attempted to cover up the incident when the victim first reported it.
Two months have passed since the lawsuit was filed. And UCLA is still sitting on its hands.
Despite the lawsuit implicating Greek life’s system of coercion and repression, the university continues to defer to the IFC to police and regulate the fraternity system, perpetuating a pattern of haphazard policies and ineffective fixes.
UCLA seems content with this. It hinted as much by ignoring the Daily Bruin’s request for comment and providing the Los Angeles Times with an empty statement about True Bruin values.
“The UCLA Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life works closely with the (IFC)l to integrate UCLA student conduct policies and True Bruin values into their respective councils and chapters,” Ricardo Vazquez, a university spokesperson, told the LA Times.
Either administrators think attempting to cover up sexual assault and threatening victims of sexual assault exemplify True Bruin values, or that the university’s sorry excuse of a fraternity-oversight apparatus is adequate.
We need only look at the regulations imposed in response to reports of sexual assault in Greek life: a temporary alcohol ban, requirements that there be third-party security guards and bartenders at every registered fraternity event and a hard alcohol ban.
None of these go to the core of the lawsuit’s concerns: that fraternity leadership can get away with covering up sexual violence in their houses.
Student leaders have been dodging the issue by trying to highlight cases of sexual assault outside the fraternity system. Alternatively, they’ve called for the same outdated solution: mandatory Title IX training – an approach that has been implemented for years and clearly has not stemmed the persistent sexual violence and systematic cover-ups. Lobato himself was required to go through such a training.
What’s more, there are no long-term consequences for Greek organizations that choose to openly disregard Title IX policies. ZBT, for example, continued to recruit a fall pledge class and plan events. UCLA hasn’t even bothered to issue a public statement condemning the fraternity for its actions.
Student governance isn’t the answer. UCLA needs to step in and carry out its responsibility to student safety. And it has references: Last year, Pennsylvania State University administrators took over disciplinary oversight of Greek life, publishing scorecards of organizations and actively investigating cases of misconduct.
And yes, putting student leaders in charge can seem an apt approach to ensure the university doesn’t appear an overbearing presence on Greek life. But the optics are far worse than that: UCLA appears complicit in fraternity leaders’ abuse of power and perpetuation of sexual violence in their houses.
There’s only one way for that image to be wiped away: Administrators need to take ownership of Greek life’s offenses.
The time for children governing children is over.