Tag Archives: fraternities

Survey: 1 in 4 college women report unwanted sexual contact

Nearly a quarter of undergraduate women surveyed at more than two dozen universities say they experienced unwanted sexual contact sometime during college, according to a report.

The results of the Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey come at a time of heightened scrutiny of the nation’s colleges and universities and what they are doing to combat sexual assault. Vice President Joe Biden recently visited Ohio State University and highlighted several new initiatives, including mandatory sexual violence awareness training for the school’s freshmen beginning next year.

The survey was sent this spring to nearly 780,000 students at the association’s member colleges, plus one additional university. About 150,000 participated in the online questionnaire. Researchers said results could be biased slightly upwards because students who ignored the survey may have been less likely to report victimization.

The results were generally in line with past surveys on sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses — and confirmed that alcohol and drugs are important risk factors.

“How many surveys will it take before we act with the urgency these crimes demand?” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who is pushing for passage of a bill that would address how sexual assault cases are handled on campus and the resources available to help students.

Researchers cautioned against generalizations from the data, partly because experiences of different students and at different schools could vary widely. It was not a representative sample of all the nation’s colleges and universities.

Some students attended schools that have recently grappled with reports of sexual assaults or misconduct, including the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ohio State.

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan has said that a widely discredited and later retracted Rolling Stone magazine story about a gang-rape at a fraternity house harmed efforts to fight sexual violence and tarred the school’s reputation. Hazing that included excessive underage drinking and sexualized conduct — though none of it aimed at females — prompted the University of Wisconsin-Madison to terminate a fraternity chapter earlier this year. And Ohio State fired its marching band director last year after an internal investigation turned up a “sexualized culture” of rituals and traditions inside the celebrated organization.

The Obama administration has taken steps to push colleges to better tackle the problem of sexual assault, including releasing the names of 55 colleges and universities last year that were facing Title IX investigations for their handling of such cases. A settlement in one of those cases, between UVA and the U.S. Department of Education has been announced. It included several changes the university will make to the handling of sexual assault cases.

Other participating schools said survey results also would bolster their ongoing efforts. Dartmouth said it will form a committee of students, faculty and staff to analyze the data, as well as conduct its own attitudes survey starting in October.

Gregory Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin, said, “It is essential that we foster a campus that does not tolerate sexual assaults while strongly encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents.”

Overall, 23 percent of undergraduate women at the participating universities said they had been physically forced — or threatened with force — into nonconsensual sexual contact or incapacitated when it happened. That included activities ranging from sexual touching or kissing to penetration. For undergraduate men, the percentage was 5 percent.

The survey found freshman women appeared to be at greater risk than older students for these forced or incapacitated encounters. About 17 percent of freshman females reported sexual contact that was forced or while incapacitated; for senior-year students, the percentage had dropped to 11 percent.

The survey provided a rare glimpse into the experiences of the small percentage of students who are transgender or who don’t identify as either male or female. Undergraduates in that category reported the highest rate of the most serious nonconsensual acts.

“Our universities are working to ensure their campuses are safe places for students,” AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement. “The primary goal of the survey is to help them better understand the experiences and attitudes of their students with respect to this challenge.”

The study found that only a relatively small percentage of serious incidents was reported to the university or another group, including law enforcement. Across the institutions, it ranged from 5 percent to 25 percent.

The most common reason cited by students for not reporting an incident was that they didn’t consider it serious enough. Others said they were embarrassed or ashamed or “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Those who chose to report the incidents, however, said they had generally favorable experiences. Well over half said their experience with the organization that handled the report was very good or excellent.

Twenty-six participating institutions were AAU member research universities: Brown; California Institute of Technology; Case Western Reserve; Columbia; Cornell; Harvard; Yale; Iowa State; Michigan State; Ohio State; Purdue; Texas A&M and the universities of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota-Twin Cities, Missouri-Columbia, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Southern California, Texas at Austin, Virginia, Wisconsin-Madison and Washingtocn University in St. Louis. One nonmember, Dartmouth College, also participated.

Amid spate of fraternity investigations, feds indict Georgia man for noose at Ole Miss

The federal government indicted a Georgia man on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students at the University of Mississippi.

Graeme Phillip Harris was enrolled in classes on the Jackson, Mississippi, campus in February 2014, when the noose and a flag bearing the Confederate battle emblem were found on a statue honoring James Meredith, the student who integrated the school in 1962.

University officials turned the case over to the Justice Department after the local district attorney declined to prosecute, saying no state laws were violated.

“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly held values,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a recent news release.

He said, “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are. By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

The Justice Department announced the indictment in late March, when several investigations were underway on other campuses over alleged sexual harassment, abuse, racist and sexist chants, and violent hazings.

This spring, the University of Mary Washington in Virginia suspended its men’s rugby team for violating the school’s code of conduct for club sports. An audio recording captured team members chanting a song with sexually explicit, derogatory and violent language.

The University of Oklahoma disbanded a Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter after a video revealed fraternity members taking part in a chant that included references to lynching, a racial slur and a vow never to induct a black member.

The chant was part of the pledge process, according to school officials, who said punishment for fraternity members included expulsion, community service and sensitivity training.

At Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, local authorities are investigating an invitation-only Facebook page hosted by Kappa Delta Rho that contained nude and seminude photos of women, including some who were either sleeping or passed out. The university suspended the fraternity for a year and police are looking into possible criminal charges, including invasion of privacy.

In late March at the University of Maryland-College Park, a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity was suspended after sending other fraternity members an email containing racial slurs and sexually aggressive language.

At North Carolina State University, a chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity recently was suspended after the discovery of a notebook containing sexist and racist comments. 

Another NCSU frat, Alpha Tau Omega, was suspended in March after drug paraphernalia was seized in the execution of a search warrant related to a sexual assault allegation.

University chancellor Randy Woodson, in a statement to the press, said, “The poor behaviors we’ve seen recently by a few in no way represent the strong character and values of our larger student body.”

Meanwhile, hazings that occurred last fall resulted in recent sanctions against the Acacia fraternity at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The Advocate newspaper reported that pledges of the now-dissolved chapter were required to stand in hot steam, prohibited from eating the week of initiation and required to participate in activities that interfered with “academic and psychological well-being.”

And, at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the fraternity that partly inspired “Animal House” is now accused of branding pledges.

Gawker first reported the story, saying the incidents took place last fall, when the chapter was under suspension over a party.