Warning: This article concerns sexual assault.
An online petition created by a UC San Diego student demanding sexual assault reform in UCSD Greek life has reached over 25,000 supporters as of today.
Organized by Jake Henry, a third year Political Science major, the petition calls for a public report of sexual assault statistics to be compiled by all Greek life organizations. According to the petition, “fraternities and sororities are allowed to keep secret the number of assaults that are perpetrated on their watch.”
Henry says that within 24 hours after pledging, he was sexually assaulted by two members of his prospective fraternity. “I’ve taken on this fight for sexual assault reform within Greek life because it is personal for me,” he wrote in a Facebook post on June 6.
While the Clery Act mandates the reporting of all incidents of sexual assault that are told to public employees, the statistic of 24 reported sexual assault cases in the 2016-2017 school year is inconsistent with the actual number of assaults yearly. Henry suggests that the lack of accountability in Greek life discourages survivors to report or speak out.
In a submission to The Triton, Henry argues that “there are multiple social barriers that block survivors from reporting these crimes, such as the fear of retaliation from peers or the belief that reporting will not lead to justice being served.”
He says that while Greek Life Advisors have been sympathetic, the policy change he explicitly asked for has not taken place: “I hope they’ll show sexual assault survivors that they’re dedicated to this issue through tangible results, and [that they’re] brave enough to stand against any opposition to implementing a more efficient sexual assault tracking system.”
All three UCSD Greek council presidents unanimously voiced support for Henry’s effort to tackle the issue.
“I think Jake’s heart is in the right place and [he] is really trying to bring attention to the issue,” Interfraternity Council President Billy Cranshaw said.
However, the presidents were critical of the petition, concerned with protecting survivors’ privacy and decision to report.
“It is our duty as advocates to respect a survivor’s choice, and revealing this data would not be keeping the survivors’ privacy a top concern,” Panhellenic Council President Kate Schneiderman said.
Multicultural Greek Council President Moore echoed Schneiderman.
“Reducing such a complex issue to a few data points ignores the human side of the issue,” Moore said.
All sexual assault reports and investigations are kept confidential by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) and are not disclosed to anyone in Greek life. In response to the presidents’ concerns, Henry clarified that his top priority is preserving people’s privacy and that he plans to publish only raw statistics of sexual assault incidents.
“The modified report I’m pushing for wouldn’t reveal the victim’s name or any identifiable information,”Henry said.“We have two choices here… we can implement a strong sexual assault tracking system with no loopholes, or have no system at all with a school full of traumatized students because we refuse to do more.”
This article was written by Sylvia O with assistance in reporting from Gabe Schneider. Sylvia O is a staff writer at The Triton. You can follow her at @Sylvia_MJ_O. Gabe Schneider is the Founder of The Triton. You can follow him at @gabemschneider.