Content warning: discussions of sexual violence and sexual harrassment
Controversy erupted at an ASUC Senate meeting Wednesday over sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, issues and a Greek life resolution proposed by ASUC Senator Joshua Lee.
The ultimately unsuccessful resolution, SR 22/23-002, would have repealed a resolution sponsored by former ASUC Senator Kalliope Zervas last school year that restricted ASUC funding for the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, and denounced it for its lack of action on SVSH issues.
“The harm and the hurt that you have caused sexual assault survivors during your term as IFC president and now as senator is something that haunts me,” Zervas said to Lee at the meeting. “The resolution you have created overturning the bill that was made for sexual assault survivors brings me to tears.”
In an email sent to the senate, Zervas said at least one SVSH incident occurs almost monthly, citing Panhellenic Council reports.
As of press time, Lee did not respond to a request for comment.
Negative sentiments against the bill were shared by several others in the chamber, including External Affairs Vice President Bailey Henderson, Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert, campus student Charlotte Ross, and a sorority president who wished to remain anonymous.
“I just don’t know why we keep having these same issues in the ASUC where everyone runs and says, ‘We are going to listen to communities who are most impacted,’ and then no one does anything when they’re here,” Weichert said in the meeting. “No one speaks up. It’s really ridiculous.”
Zervas echoed Weichert’s comments, noting the “hypocrisy” of senators who campaigned on anti-SVSH platforms but were publicly silent on SR 22/23-002 and called it “extremely harmful.”
Later, ASUC Senator Tyler Mahomes called for a closed session to discuss the resolution. According to Mahomes, he had sensitive information from an SVSH survivor that could not be shared publicly. After 105 minutes in closed session, the resolution was tabled indefinitely by unanimous consent.
“The bill proposed yesterday was totally uninformed,” said Senator Carlos Vázquez. “It was all over the place, and at the end of the day, it was to overturn a bill related to SVSH proposed by the past senate class.”
Vázquez noted that comprehensive training for fraternities, along with other measures, were needed to ensure SVSH issues could be dealt with effectively.
ASUC Senator Mahathi Kandimalla, who made the motion to table SR 22/23-002, said the resolution had “issues” but she believed its primary purpose was to fund fraternities rather than invalidate SVSH survivors’ experiences.
Kandimalla noted the senate had directed Lee to rewrite the resolution. She added that she would like to see solutions pertaining to sustainability as well as a provision to hold fraternities that violate sexual harassment policies accountable.
The closed session nature of the discussion was decried by several ASUC staffers in attendance who said it was not transparent.
“It should never be a closed session for any reason,” said a member of Kandimalla’s staff who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The only reason why it’s a closed session is so they don’t have the public knowing what each of these senators are saying.”
Mahomes, who called for the closed session, was a co-sponsor on SR 22/23-002 but removed his name before the meeting. ASUC Senator Raymond Hufnagel also removed his co-sponsorship.
Kandimalla said the closed session was warranted due to the sensitive nature of information being shared by some senators. She added that the closed session allowed Mahomes and Lee to share their opinions without being “villainized” or fearing “cancel culture.”
Vázquez also agreed with the decision to hold a closed session, adding that he believes in transparency and that the senators would come up with a “creative” way to publicly reveal the contents of the meeting.
A member of ASUC Senator Yasamin Hatefi’s staff, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, alleged other senators had not spoken out against the resolution because they felt intimidated by the group of people Lee had brought with him to the meeting.
“Senator Lee’s resolution was not to create unity among the ASUC and Greek life,” Zervas alleged in an email. “It was created because frats finally received consequences.”