OSAC works to prevent sexual assault in Greek life `

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Emily Jo Wharry
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Since the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC)’s re-emergence November 2017, the coalition has begun a letter-writing campaign to Occidental Greek life organizations. The letters included OSAC’s concerns about sexual assault prevalence in Greek life and demands for organizations to reflect on their practices. According to OSAC member Micaela Stevens (senior), Zeta Tau Zeta (Zeta), Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) received official letters from OSAC December 2017. Stevens said the purpose of the letters is to raise awareness that currently, Greek life at Occidental is not safe.

“Before we can fix anything, we need to make people know that there is an issue,” Stevens said. “We have sent letters kind of urging them to be upstanders and to create a healthier environment for their organizations.”

The letters included details about OSAC goal No. 3: to amend Greek Council’s regulations regarding sexual harassment, battery and assault prevention in all Greek organizations. OSAC originally detailed the goal in a statement emailed to the community Nov. 30, 2017. The letters had a list of questions to prompt reflection about sexual assault and discussion among organization members. The first three letters sent were almost identical, Stevens said, with certain language shifted to align with the organizations accurately.

OSAC sent Phi Psi a follow-up letter Feb. 16, 2018. This letter included specific concerns related to Phi Psi, including allegations of sexual violence and harassment committed by Phi Psi members, urging the organization to further their reflection around behavior that perpetuates sexual violence. Stevens said all letters were sent through email, although OSAC made the decision to briefly publicize the letter to Phi Psi on their Instagram.

“I felt they were really minimizing the ways their own members participated in the thing that they publicly like to stand against: rape culture,” Stevens said.

According to Stevens, the letter was later removed from Instagram by OSAC due to concerns about perceived prioritization.

“We realized it would maybe seem like if we only published one at a time that we’re only looking at that,” Stevens said. “I think that all the orgs deserve the same amount of scrutinization.”

Zeta received a letter from OSAC Dec. 11, 2017. According to Alex Morse (senior), academic chair and chapter leader of Zeta, Zeta has since been working to address the questions prompted in the letter. OSAC’s reestablishment fast-tracked ongoing reform related to sexual assault within Zeta. According to Stevens, Zeta has committed to creating a safer environment.

According to Morse, Zeta has increased their communication with their alumni board to establish protocols related to sexual assault repercussions and amended their sober sibling policies. Zeta Co-Recruitment Chair Ann Garber (sophomore) said that sober siblings have always existed, but Zeta is now working to make them more noticeable and to clarify what their specific responsibilities are.

“It’s a responsibility to your peers to look out for each other and understand that we as a Greek organization are put in a particular position where we do have to look out for other people,” Garber said. “We take that very seriously.”

SAE President Sam Loy (sophomore) said that SAE also received a letter December 2017, and had chapter-wide discussions in regards to the critiques OSAC presented. Loy said he has reached out to Stevens to set up a meeting to discuss SAE and OSAC collaboration moving forward.

William Gittings (junior), president of Phi Psi, declined a request for an in-person interview but gave a statement via email.

“Phi Psi is fully committed to working with OSAC. OSAC said that they do not have time to meet with us this semester, however, we look forward to meeting with them early next semester,” Gittings said via email.

According to Stevens, OSAC sent an email to Delta Omicron Tau (Delta) and Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha (Alpha) leadership raising a concern about gender-neutral recruitment that OSAC felt the organizations should discuss internally. This correspondence was separate from the letter campaign, which was focused on sexual violence.

According to Delta President Jodie Kincaid (senior), Delta received the email concerning gender-neutral recruitment from OSAC March 18. Following the email, Delta had chapter discussions based on what it means to participate in the gender-neutral track of recruitment.

Kincaid said that the gender-neutral recruitment track is a self-selected track during a rush week that does not have bylaws against gender-neutral individuals joining. Kincaid said that last semester, Alpha, Zeta and Delta took part in this track. However, Delta does not offer bids to male identifying individuals.

“We have recognized that while we are on the gender-neutral track for recruitment, that we do not offer a space that is entirely welcoming for non-binary individuals as we use the she-series in our traditions and refer to each other as sisters,” Kincaid said via email.

After receiving correspondence from OSAC, Delta fast-tracked a discussion and vote around this track of recruitment. Kincaid said Delta voted to remove themselves from the gender-neutral track in an effort to not falsely advertise their practices.

“This doesn’t mean that we are barring non-binary individuals from our organization, just that we will be on a different track for recruitment this upcoming semester,” Kincaid said. “Our hope is to take a look at the track system with Greek Council and find ways to improve it for the future.”

Naomi Newman (senior), Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) Project S.A.F.E. liaison, and Mia Smutny (junior), Theta president, said Theta did not receive any formal correspondence from OSAC, although they were aware of their presence on campus.

Stevens said that OSAC intended to send follow-up letters to all organizations, but personal problems, as well as her concerns surrounding the announcement of Cathie Young Selleck ’55 as a 2018 graduation speaker, delayed their completion.

Although Stevens said she aimed to finish the letters by the time she graduated, she will be unable to do so. She said finishing the letters will be a prioritized goal for OSAC in Fall 2018.

“OSAC is committed to raising awareness about sexual violence within all Greek organizations — an institution that often goes hand in hand with sexual violence — and beyond, and will be prioritizing that in the fall,” Stevens said via email.