We strongly support Cal Poly’s decision to put the entire Greek system on social probation, which means all parties and other social events sponsored by fraternities and sororities are prohibited for the time being.
The decision was made following the report of a third sexual assault connected to a Greek party since Halloween.
The university also has been informed of “extreme intoxication” of underage students at Greek events, and it is investigating those claims.
We are concerned, though, that the university has been less than forthcoming in communicating reports of sexual assaults to students and to the public.
For example, it did not tell The Tribune where the most recent reported assault occurred, other than to say it was at a Greek residence. And initially it said even less about the second incident. Only Wednesday did it inform The Tribune that the second incident occurred at the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house and that the fraternity’s activities were suspended pending a Cal Poly investigation.
University officials indicated that those incidents were not reported as thoroughly as the first case because it was determined that they did not put the community at risk.
Yet if they warrant system-wide social probation, surely they merit a basic news release. To be clear, we are not looking for lurid details.
We believe, however, that publishing basic information about any reported crime — including the location where it allegedly occurred — increases awareness and can prevent more crimes from occurring.
We also wonder, why has it taken so long for the university to take such sweeping action?
We can understand a reluctance to punish the many for the actions of a few, but the Greek system at Cal Poly has a history of issues: the hazing death of Carson Starkey; incidents of binge drinking — including one in 2011 that sent an 18-year-old sorority pledge to the hospital; repeated reports of sexual assaults at fraternity events.
Granted, the university has tried to step up. Last year, it adopted a stringent “party policy” that, among other things, prohibited drinking games, limited the duration and size of parties, and required a guest list to be submitted in advance. But those efforts have been, at best, only partially effective.
The administration now is calling for a “change in culture” and is looking to Greek members to develop a plan.
“We hope to have a thoughtful plan for cultural change proposed by our students in 30 days, at which point we will revisit the social probation,” Cal Poly said in a statement.
What, exactly, does that mean?
Should a paid security guard be stationed at the door of fraternity parties, checking IDs?
Should bartenders enforce atwo- or three-drink maximum?
Should paid chaperones patrol parties?
Here’s the deal — all the rules in the world aren’t going to ensure the “change in culture” the university is seeking. Nor will a weekend retreat or required watching of an educational video. Nor, for that matter, will passing a “yes means yes” law in the state Legislature.
A change in culture goes much deeper, and we suspect it will take much longer than a month to develop a plan for such a monumental shift.
So while a 30-day, systemwide social probation is a start, we urge the university administration to be prepared to extend that, depending on what the ongoing investigations of sexual assaults and binge drinking reveal and on the response of Greek leadership.
We also urge the university to be more transparent in sharing reports of sexual assaults. Err on the side of over-reporting, if necessary. Otherwise, it appears the university is minimizing the seriousness of the situations.
Finally, it’s incumbent on the university to make it clear to fraternities and sororities that certain behaviors — sexual assaults, hazing, serving dangerous amounts of alcohol to minors — will not be tolerated.
If that means a longer period of social probation or more serious sanctions, we’ll support that.