USC acknowledges “worrying delay” in fraternity drug warnings, sexual assault reports

The USC on Friday acknowledged a “worrying delay” in warning communities on campus about drug allegations and sexual assault by the fraternity last month as a rare professorial protest added growing criticism of the university’s handling of the crisis.

In a message to the campus community Friday night, USC President Carol Folt said the university’s confidential reporting program received five to seven revelations of possible drugs and possible sexual assault in the fraternity in late September. However, the information was not passed on to the campus community until October 20, when the Department of Public Safety issued a warning that the university had received a report of sexual assault and reports of drug addiction at the Sigma Nu fraternity house. , “leading to possible sexual assaults due to drugs.”

Six students reported the alleged drug and assault occurred at Sigma Nu on Sept. 24, and one female student reported being drugged Sept. 27 at an unknown location, according to the department’s daily diary released Oct. 21. The university later announced that it had broken off the fraternity.

Folt said the university decided to take a “remarkable step” and share information more widely communicated to a confidential program called the Service for the Prevention of Relationships and Sexual Violence – but did so weeks after receiving it.

The USC said the campus ‘confidential reporting service, without disclosing the students’ identities, shared a general summary of its allegations about Sigma Nu with university officials for safety, health, student affairs and crisis intervention on Sept. 30.

“We are still investigating what happened, but there was obvious uncertainty about how to assess and process the information, and it was not immediately escalated” to other bodies, the university said in a frequently asked post Friday night. The groups shared the information with Title IX and concluded a meeting on 18 October to discuss the situation.

But during that time, another USC student reported being sexually assaulted in the fraternity on Oct. 16.

“We now know that there has been a worrying delay in acting on this information and in particular in the assessment to inform the community,” Folt said in her letter. “This has highlighted for me the gray area in our processes when reports arrive at the RSVP, and the challenge of marrying a highly confidential support service that may have limited details, with the need to inform and alert the community.

“As president, I came to the USC with a promise to confront what was wrong and lead the effort to repair the defect,” she wrote. “When we learn more, we will be able to do some things quickly and others will take more time. That’s too important to be wrong. “

Criticism of the USC’s handling of the crisis continued to rise on Friday after allegations sparked protests by a broad group of campus groups. At a demonstration organized by professors in the Department of Sex Studies and members of the Concerned Faculty of USC, protesters gathered on Friday in front of the Bovard administration building opposite Alumni Park, where registration began over the weekend. Dozens of professors and staff joined the students and called on the administration to make changes following the allegations against Sigma Nu.

For some colleges, the allegations were the last cause for concern and frustration over the administration, which they feel was complacent in tolerating misconduct.

“It’s literally the tip of the iceberg,” said Aniko Imre, a professor at the film school. She noted the mobilization of the faculty, which began when allegations of sexual assault surfaced against George Tyndall, a former student health center gynecologist accused of abusing thousands of patients – a scandal that contributed to the ouster of CL President Max Nikias and agreed to the USC a $ 1.1 billion settlement with those who suspect abuse. Tyndall he pleaded not guilty dozens of sexual assault charges.

“The new administration came with very good intentions and with new energy. And I feel that the community, especially the faculty, has given them benefit from doubt and a lot of support. And I think the general opinion is that we don’t see the change we expected yet, ”she said. ‘We [the faculty] it cannot handle crises forever. There must be some vision of a new normalcy. And the new normalcy seems at this point very similar to the old normal. “

During the protest, dozens of professors and students confronted Principal Charles Zukoski and asked him what the USC administration was doing after allegations of sexual abuse by fraternity members. Zukoski said the university is not currently considering abolishing fraternities and that the issue of sexual assault is not just a problem of Greek society.

“I am definitely not defending the fraternity and Greek society,” he said. “All I want to say is that this is a very problematic issue for our entire culture and society – it’s not just the Greek system on campus, it’s widespread throughout our society and it’s disgusting.”

Asked for further comment on the possibility of overturning any fraternity that is at the heart of the allegations, Zukoski said such action would not solve the problem.

Unsubscribing from the university – breaking the link between the chapter and the university – does not necessarily dissolve the chapter. Theta Xi, for example, was not recognized by the USC in 2019, but still has a house on Greek Row.

“In the Greek system, it is interesting that these are entities that are legally separate from the university. We are not homeowners and the rules are set and run by their organization, ”he said. “Certificates could be revoked, but that doesn’t mean organizations are disappearing. Other institutions I have been to when we repeal a fraternity or sisterhood can continue to have nice parties for their members. And that’s one of the reasons why not only the USC, but other institutions continue to want to work with these groups, because at least if we certify them, we can impose some rules – not many. “

Demonstrating student support was the main goal of Karen Tongson, president of gender and sexuality studies at USC and a member of the Concerned Faculty group. Tongson, who has been at the university for 16 years, organized a forum before the demonstration.

“The legacy of the USC has been stunned for years in dealing with sexual assault and sexual violence on campus,” Tongson said. “As professors, we felt like we had to show up and be there for students to support them and show solidarity with them when they felt betrayed, in many ways, by the university because it can’t answer to those responsible for sexual violence. and sexual harassment. “

In her message, Folt invited campus members to post all questions to [email protected]

“Sexual assault is a serious problem on university campuses across the country and is a problem at USC,” she said. “When that happens, the whole university is affected. We participate in anger over this violence and compassion for those affected. It strikes at the heart of the community and the care we owe each other. “

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