The Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC) announced its re-emergence in an email to the campus community Nov. 30, 2017. OSAC member Micaela Stevens (senior) sent the email, which was signed on behalf of OSAC and included an eight-page document detailing the organization’s new goals. According to the statement, OSAC returned in order to work toward five goals: re-establishing grounds for expulsion related to sexual assault, banning underground fraternities, amending Greek Council regulations regarding sexual harassment, increasing awareness of on-campus resources and reforming New Student Orientation and Think About It, an online course which all first years are required to complete. The attached statement included a description of their second goal — banning underground Greek organizations — with stories from unnamed survivors and a timeline for OSAC’s plan of action.
OSAC was active at Occidental 2007–2013 and dormant 2013–2017. According to OSAC’s website, during that time span of activity the organization participated in seven campus-wide forums on sexual assault, met with campus administrators, participated in three task forces and gave eight presentations on issues concerning Occidental’s sexual assault programming, policies and procedures.
According to OSAC member Rachel Hayes (first year), the coalition has eight core members that meet weekly to discuss and work on the five goals outlined in the November statement.
Stevens said OSAC is back on campus because there are still changes to be made in order to address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. OSAC member Gabriella Anson (senior) echoed this claim.
“There’s still such a sexual assault epidemic on college campuses. [Occidental] isn’t immune to that,” Anson said. “We’ve felt like there are things on campus when it comes to sexual violence that just are not best processes and practices.”
Rachel Hayes (first year) said that during the fall semester, OSAC was focused on cultivating group identity and forming goals. During the spring semester, the group will focus on building relationships with on-campus stakeholders, taking action on their goals and gaining feedback from the community.
OSAC’s advocacy on campus began after the Nov. 30 statement. OSAC sold t-shirts reading “anti-male bias” on campus, raising $166 for End Rape on Campus, according to an OSAC Instagram post. The shirts were designed by OSAC in response to the Title IX complaint filed anonymously on behalf of the football team alleging anti-male bias in the Athletic Department.
According to Anson, different members are taking on specific goals and no one is working alone. Stevens said she has been amongst the members focusing on goals specific to Greek life at Occidental to make the culture safer for students. Stevens has been meeting with members of the administration and representatives of Greek life, working towards the ultimate goal of refining and clarifying repercussions within the Greek system and the banning of underground Greek organizations, like that of OMA, formerly Alpha Tau Omega.
OSAC published an Instagram post Feb. 15 that stated fraternity members rape 300 percent more than non members and included the two logos of Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) as part of the graphic. The post also stated that OSAC sent letters to both of the fraternities as well as Zeta Tau Zeta (Zeta) and met with Phi Psi and SAE.
According to Stevens, OSAC sent letters to SAE, Phi Psi and Zeta urging them to participate in shifting the current culture that allows for sexual assault to take place. OSAC briefly posted a follow up letter to Phi Psi on Instagram. Stevens said at the time the letter was posted, OSAC had been working to schedule a workshop with Phi Psi, but Phi Psi pulled out due to a Phi Psi’s member’s health concern. OSAC and Phi Psi subsequently rescheduled the meeting which then fell through due to scheduling issues and the need to prioritize OSAC members’ mental health, according to Stevens. Stevens said she looks forward to meeting with Phi Psi later in the semester. A Phi Psi representative declined multiple requests for comment from The Occidental regarding correspondence between OSAC and Phi Psi. OSAC is in the process of writing follow-up letters to SAE and Zeta, as well as letters to the four Occidental sororities. Stevens said all letters will be publicly available within the next few weeks.
According to Stevens, OSAC members are also working to change the Greek Council bylaws so that they cover mandatory protocols for Greek parties, mandatory educational training with Project SAFE and Title IX and a code of conduct that will include a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault.
In addition to these goals, Anson said OSAC is focused on prevention practices: making people aware of OSAC’s resources and re-establishing the guidelines for expulsion related to sexual assault.
According to Hayes, their first exposure to sexual assault education on campus was the online Think About It course. They said they did not get much out of the program, and thought it could be improved. Now, Hayes is focusing on reforming orientation and the use of Think About It.
Anson is also working toward the goal of reforming orientation. According to Anson, although the work is in its early stages, OSAC representatives are starting to meet with representatives from the Title IX Office, New Student Orientation leaders and Project SAFE to discuss how to address the sexual assault epidemic at Occidental and educate incoming students.
“We have seen students in the past walk away from orientation with views and ideas that perpetuate rape culture and our goal is to understand why that is happening and work towards changing that,” Anson said via email.
Anson said OSAC hopes there will be a shift toward including more history of sexual assault on Occidental’s campus into orientation while dismantling rape myths and providing resources for survivors.
“We believe that incoming students should know what past students have fought for on campus,” Anson said.
According to Hayes, they had no awareness of OSAC’s existence before the re-emergence. According to Hayes, OSAC personally invited them to join the organization based on their advocacy for survivors and discussion around issues regarding sexual assault during their tenure as first-year senator in Fall 2017.
“As a survivor and someone who is really passionate about those things, it’s something that I was really happy to get a chance to be a part of and really nice of these older students to reach out to me as a younger student,” Hayes said.
Hayes said when OSAC approached them, their biggest concern was being tokenized by the coalition as a black femme member. They communicated this discomfort to OSAC members and found solace from the group.
“We have a lot of POC [on OSAC] which is really great because it does show that POC cares about these issues,” Hayes said. “It’s never about just white feminism. It’s really balanced and a really good space.”
According to both Hayes and OSAC Co-Founder and Politics Professor Caroline Heldman, who formally co-founded the organization Feb. 14, 2012, OSAC has no hierarchical structure among its membership.
“It’s an organization that is open to anyone concerned about preventing sexual violence on this campus,” Heldman said via email.
Stevens said since OSAC’s public statement and meetings with administration, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rob Flot has committed to making a change to Occidental policy this summer. According to Stevens, this policy change would reflect some form of ban on underground Greek organizations for the 2018–19 school year. Additionally, OSAC is working with the future OMA house manager Carlton O’Neal to collaborate on shifting the culture OSAC has been critiquing.
OSAC has an online submission form, Stevens said, in order to provide a platform for anyone to provide thoughts on the goals being pursued.
“The biggest thing we’re working on right now is recognizing feedback, which is super important to me,” Hayes said.