Education

Cal Poly lifts social probation for fraternities, sororities

An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly has lifted its social probation restricting the Greek system from holding parties, saying Friday that a plan is now in place to change fraternity and sorority culture and address sexual violence and out-of-control behavior.

The university’s fraternities and sororities had been on probation since Jan. 13 because of reports of three sexual assaults and extreme intoxication at fraternity gatherings this school year.

Cal Poly kept the party ban in place until Greek leaders developed the plan, a 19-page document that identifies educational programs and ways of managing risk to prevent hazardous activities.

“The STATUS (Students Taking Action Towards University Safety) plan offers a solid foundation of proactive education efforts that aim at reducing the number of cases concerning sexual violence on our campus,” wrote Dean of Students Jean DeCosta and Vice President for Student Affairs Keith B. Humphrey in a letter to the campus community released Friday. “The plan promotes healthy social interactions and empowers students to take action in changing the culture. It will also hold Greek Life groups accountable for better managing their gatherings.”

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong approved the plan on March 23 pending endorsements from all Greek chapter presidents. The signatures of all of the presidents were received on Friday.

A letter serving as an introduction to the plan was signed by Kristen Henry, president of the Panhellenic Council representing sororities; Alex Horncliff, the Interfraternity Council president; and Alicia Martinez, the United Sorority and Fraternity Council President.

“Within the last few months sexual violence has become a major issue in the Cal Poly community,” they wrote. “While not entirely new, the prevalence of this issue neither reflects the values of our campus nor our individual programs.”

Henry told The Tribune on Friday that “communication was the key,” adding that they “worked closely with the national organizations (of fraternities and sororities) to get this plan in place.”

The plan lays out a number of initiatives that include the following:

  • A Sexual Assault Task Force will be created to analyze components of Greek culture that contribute to sexual assault.
  • Liaisons from every fraternity and sorority chapter will act as go-betweens for their chapters and Cal Poly’s SAFER program, a sexual assault preventing and awareness center.
  • A program will be developed for fraternity members that discusses “healthy masculinity,” addressing such issues as dangerous drinking, misogyny, perspectives on sexual violence and apathy toward social justice issues.
  • Training will be provided for sober monitors who observe the activities and provide security at social gatherings in Greek chapters.
  • One sober monitor, at minimum, will be present per 30 guests at each social event.
  • Each chapter will provide guests at parties with unopened bottled water and “ample non-salty foods, and equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages in a visible and accessible location.”
  • Each chapter shall submit a post-event review by the following Wednesday of a weekend party.
  • The document also expressed some ideas the Greek chapters hope to see implemented by the university, including clearly explaining to Greek students what the consequences are from Cal Poly for perpetrators of sexual violence; working with Cal Poly Police and the San Luis Obispo Police Department to explain the entire investigation progress of a sexual violence case; and continuously informing students about updates to sexual assault policy and major investigations within the confines of federal, state and CSU policy.

    The plan also lays out a blueprint for hosting educational forums and campaigns that help stop sexual violence within the Greek community and collaborating with the non-Greek student community.

    The Sexual Assault Task Force of administrators and Greek Life student leaders will research what is contributing to sexual assault and further possible solutions, as well as to assess the effectiveness of the STATUS plan on an annual basis.

    Each Greek chapter also is expected to complete a bystander intervention training program with SAFER that aims to teach students how to step in during social interactions that could lead to sexual assault.

    Each Greek chapter must also assess current individual chapter programs “that address sexual violence and create programs if they aren’t in place.”

    Each individual Greek member is expected to fully participate in the programming.

    “As leaders in our community we will work to educate our constituents and peers in an effort to forever change the culture of sexual violence at Cal Poly and leave behind the infrastructure and planning for future leaders to continue prevention efforts,” the plan states.

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