A University of Oregon task force on sexual violence is recommending that in order to combat rape on campus, the school suspend plans to increase fraternities and sororities, as well as address the serious dangers that the existing Greek houses pose.
The UO task force was created to respond to reports of rape and sexual assault on campus, which are serious: earlier this month, a survey found that 19 percent of female UO students had been raped, but few of them reported the attacks to anyone. Earlier this year, there were protests on campus when three students were kicked off the basketball team, but not criminally charged, after being accused of raping a female student.
On Wednesday, the task force released a blistering report called "Twenty Students Per Week," named for the number of people raped or sexually assaulted during their time at UO. The report immediately calls out frats and sororities on campus, charging that those organizations play an outsized role in sexual violence on campus:
We cannot ignore the fact that, despite the relatively small number of students directly involved in their activities, Athletics and Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) play disproportionately powerful roles in facilitating or tolerating conditions in which sexual violence occurs on campus. This observation is grounded in decades of research on campus sexual violence, review of the training materials made available to the President's Review Panel by Athletics, the walls of secrecy that surround these cultures, their activities, and their problems, and the number of high-profile cases of sexual violence in athletics programs and Greek life nationwide that exhibit many of the same problems we are experiencing at UO.
The task force makes several other recommendations: mandatory courses for all students on gender equality, more funding for rape-prevention and self-defense programs, a booklet for staff and faculty on sexual violence. But their most detailed concerns and recommendations deal with the Greek system. The same survey that found a high incidence of rape among female UO students also found that both men and women involved in Greek life were at increased risk of rape and sexual assault.
For that reason, the UO task force says, the school needs to drop plans to expand frats and sororities, and start collecting more data on the about problems within the Greek system. They're particularly concerned about the recruitment time that happens in the fall quarter, which is referred to by some advocates as "the Red Zone."
"Fall quarter is the most dangerous period of time for young women," the report says. They also want students to have better information about Greek houses that are on probation or suspension, "to make informed decisions about their safety."
Coming up with a new sexual assault policy is just the first step though, and implementing it, as many universities are learning, can be tricky too. Earlier this month, a group of Harvard Law professors issued an open letter calling the new sexual assault policy unfair and saying it would "do more harm than good." In response, the campus paper's editorial staff fired back, saying the school has a responsibility to call for "justice for the victims of sexual harassment and assault."
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