Content warning: sexual violence and sexual harassment
The ASUC revoked a grant offering funding to campus fraternities in March, yet a resolution introduced by ASUC Senator Josh Lee reinstated funding for the Cal Interfraternity Council Wednesday night, effectively overturning the March bill.
Since the resolution’s introduction in September, survivors of sexual violence and harassment have vehemently denounced Lee’s proposal, citing fears of a lack of accountability over ongoing SVSH prevention efforts.
Earlier this year, former ASUC Senators Kalliope Zervas and Muz Ahmad successfully introduced a bill revoking funding and support for the Cal Interfraternity Council, or IFC, and denouncing the UC Berkeley LEAD Center’s Fraternity and Sorority Advising Department.
In Zervas’ words, the bill revokes a grant for fraternities in a symbolic measure to stand with survivors of sexual violence and harassment; specifically, the bill asserted that the ASUC would not provide student funding to fraternities until further practices were put into place to prevent sexual violence and harassment.
“Our bill was made by SVSH survivors for SVSH survivors. For once, we had a voice,” Zervas said in an email. “Myself and the survivor community at Cal finally felt like people were listening. The day our bill was passed was truly one of the most rewarding days of my academic career, as an SVSH survivor.”
At the time, the measure was met with widespread support from the ASUC Senate. Now, just under eight months after its passing, the bill has been unanimously repealed.
Revoking funding and support for the IFC and the UC Berkeley LEAD Center
The UC Berkeley administration revoked recognition in January 2022 of three campus fraternities: Theta Delta Chi, Chi Phi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Campus cited hazing-related activities as the reason for this action.
Unrecognized fraternities are not provided with training, advising or event registration by the campus. Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff acknowledged that campus training and advising increases accountability.
“While several of these organizations are working towards being re-recognized by UC Berkeley, many of these groups potentially put students at risk and in unsafe situations by hosting parties and other social events that do not align with campus policies, practices, and standards,” Ratliff said in an email.
Furthermore, Ratliff added that campus does not investigate unrecognized groups for Code of Conduct violations due to a lack of jurisdiction, though it still investigates individual students if a violation is reported.
However, according to Zervas, the unrecognized fraternities were found to have an ongoing history with SVSH in addition to hazing violence. Because of their lack of recognition, Zervas alleged the fraternities are “virtually unregulated” and continue to retain certain privileges due to their continued affiliation with IFC.
“The lack of public information given about these fraternities and the number of SVSH cases that occur here stays hidden,” Zervas said in an email. “How can we stop women from going to these frats … if vital information on why these frats are so harmful is kept hidden?”
Zervas said her and Ahmad’s March bill was aimed specifically at unaffiliated fraternities, asserting that she expects the IFC to revoke recognition of the same fraternities as campus and provide consequences for a lack of accountability surrounding SVSH.
The hold on funding or grants for the IFC would have remained intact until the calendar year of 2023, or until the IFC made a “noticeable attempt” towards taking tangible actions to address SVSH, along with reducing single-use plastic waste and complying with Alameda County recycling laws, according to the bill.
“Respect for Greek Life” and the Greek Opportunity Grant Reform Act
The ASUC Senate unanimously voted to approve the Greek Opportunity Grant Reform Act, proposed by ASUC Senator Josh Lee, at its Wednesday meeting, a bill calling for the Senate to amend the “Greek Opportunity Grant” and reinstate fraternity eligibility to student funding.
Lee’s new resolution is a revival of a similar proposal made in September.
At a senate meeting Sept. 29, Lee, who is also the campus IFC president, suggested overturning Zervas and Ahmad’s bill revoking funding to fraternities, thus reinstating the transfer of funds. Colloquially called the “Respect for Greek Life” resolution, it became one of Lee’s key platforms during his spring campaign for the ASUC Senate.
“The ASUC has declared war on Greek Life at UC Berkeley,” a post on Lee’s Instagram reads. “The ASUC has directly hurt the efforts of the Interfraternity Council and has prevented the Interfraternity Council from protecting Greek community interests such as protecting students from SVSH and ongoing sustainability efforts by cutting funding to the very mechanism that serves the Greeks.”
In the original proposal, Lee strongly asserted that the IFC already has rules and regulations in place to address SVSH in fraternities, such as SVSH prevention training workshops, social probations and alcohol education efforts.
However, tensions flared after significant opposition from Zervas and survivors of SVSH during the general public comment session, with the Senate voting to indefinitely table Lee’s resolution following a closed session discussion.
“Sexual harassment and violence is prevalent on campus and this bill is making us go backwards,” one student said at the September meeting. “As a student, this is extremely alarming and I hope everyone here does the right thing to not pass the bill.”
With revisions from Lee, the bill pointedly avoids mention of the IFC’s current approach to promoting SVSH prevention, seeking to repair the ASUC’s relationship with the IFC and amend the Greek Opportunity Grant to once again make UC Berkeley’s fraternities eligible for funding.
Misconduct and conflict in the ASUC and LEAD Center
Beyond the diplomatic setting of ASUC meetings emerges a narrative of internal conflicts abounding between members of the ASUC, the LEAD Center and the IFC.
One such claim comes from Zervas, who said both Lee and Jeff Woods, director of the Fraternity and Sorority Life department of the LEAD Center dismissed her concerns about SVSH in Greek life when approached by her on separate occasions.
Specifically, Zervas alleged that Woods said it is “the women’s fault” for going to unaffiliated fraternities and that women bear responsibility for the subsequent lack of consequences unaffiliated fraternities face for incidents of SVSH.
Zervas also alleged that Lee mocked her initiatives on SVSH prevention, calling her efforts “distasteful” and refusing to work with or discuss the initiatives with her.
“To hear that the fraternity president that once mocked me for asking him about SVSH is now making a bill to overturn the bill we made for survivors is more than disheartening,” Zervas said in an email. “And to hear that Jeff Woods, who once victim blamed myself and other survivors, enabled and continues to enable this behavior leaves me tearful at best.”
As of press time, Lee has not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.
In response to the allegations, Ratliff said Zervas’ description of the alleged comments and interactions “misconstrued and misrepresented” Woods and the guidance Woods offers through the LEAD Center.
“The LEAD Center remains committed to educating student organizations about and preventing SVSH,” Ratliff said in an email.
According to Ratliff, Woods outlined several ways to hold campus Greek life organizations accountable, including loss of university recognition, actions taken by the IFC, the Panhellenic Council or a national chapter, by students “choosing not to attend” events hosted by unrecognized groups and by being ostracized by other Greek life organizations.