Reactions to UC Santa Barbara’s timely warning — sent to all students last Thursday night — drew equal parts speculation and scrutiny when key information surrounding the two alleged incidents of date-rape drug use were left undisclosed in the email.
In an effort to fill in the gaps, students jumped to social media and ignited a firestorm of posts that called for the university to play a more transparent role in informing the student body — beyond sharing a list of “safety tips” attached to the bottom of the timely warning. Others began pointing fingers at specific fraternities on Twitter; although unconfirmed, some tweets went viral.
A timely warning from the university is a product of deliberation and consideration, according to Miles Ashlock, associate dean and director of the Office of Student Life (OSL).
The university elicits a timely warning on a “case-by-case basis” based on factors surrounding the incident, which include “the nature of the crime, the serious or continuing threat to the campus community, and the possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts,” he said.
The decision to release the timely warning with undisclosed information stems from the Clery Act, a campus security law that aims to facilitate transparency in campus crimes and statistics, according to the Clery Act’s website.
However, student leaders in registered campus organizations, such as a fraternities or sororities, are not mandated to report instances of sexual violence and sexual harassment and instead attend annual trainings “in interpersonal violence prevention strategies,” Ashlock said.
When a crime occurs on “Clery geography,” which, according to the Clery Act’s website, includes non-campus buildings “owned or controlled by a student organization,” the university makes a judgment call to “evaluate if there is a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community,” Ashlock said.
“In our communications, we strive to be sensitive to the impact that the message may have on survivors and to be careful not to create the potentially false sense of security (by naming one location over another, particularly when we may not have sufficient information to like the offense to a particular residence),” he added.
Associated Students President Alison Sir said she met with campus administrators following the release of the timely warning out of concern for survivors and those unaffiliated with Greek life who feel “uncomfortable” about the situation. In a meeting with Assistant Vice Chancellor & Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn, Sir said she learned the timely warning was not specific to one fraternity.
“The timely warning is about multiple IFC frats and frats outside [of IFC] — like in [multi-cultural] groups. [The university] didn’t want to release the names because I know a lot of students are angry about that because they’re all under investigation,” Sir said.
Sir also addressed the “victim-blaming” nature of the timely warning’s “safety tips,” which she said the university opted to include after learning of one allegation that claimed a fraternity had laced a bottle marked with an “X” on it and would choose “who would get [the bottle] or not.”
“It was basically IFC frats and frats outside of IFC as well, nothing was finalized [and] they were still investigating, so they didn’t want to release any names of people involved.”
During Wednesday’s Senate meeting, Sir addressed Senate regarding the timely warning. She said she is working with Klawunn and Armistead to develop a “task force” of administration members, community leaders and students to review policies and practices addressing sexual violence in I.V.
Sir told senators that the task force will “encourage safer behavior and develop better response practices.” At this time, Sir was unsure who would be appointed to the task force, but said she will ensure that every “stakeholder” in the issue would be involved in the task force.
When further questioned by Senator Benjamin Chocron, Sir added that these stakeholders include IFC and Panhellenic members.
Sir also advertised an upcoming Sexual Assault Town Hall, hosted by Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) – to be held on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion.
The news brought by the timely warning drew an immediate response of “abhorrence and disgust” in the eyes of SASA’s president, Alia Reynolds, a third-year global studies and philosophy double major.
“We condemn any and all individuals or organizations which knowingly allow such actions to take place, or foster an environment which allows individuals to feel they can take such actions,” she said.
Like many students who spoke up on social media, Reynolds concluded that the university’s response was “not adequate” and that “[SASA] firmly advocate[s] for the university to release the name of the fraternity organization[s] associated with the incident.”
Reynolds said SASA has created a “Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Map” which allows survivors to “anonymously submit the date, location and any details they wish to disclose about an instance” of sexual violence or sexual harassment.
The frequency of incidents similar to those described by the timely warning call for “a larger conversation regarding the prevalent cultural and social context within Isla Vista and many other communities,” Reynolds said. “We believe a larger cultural shift in accountability must take place within our community.”
On Saturday, a message responding to the timely warning was chalked — and quickly washed away — on a sidewalk adjacent to fraternity Sigma Pi, emboldened with the words “hold frats accountable.” The chalking belonged to @catcallsofsantabarbara, an Instagram account that posts anonymously submitted stories of sexual harassment.
Two representatives of the account, who wish to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, told the Nexus they first heard about the timely warning after receiving multiple screenshots of the email.
After speaking with a “few members of the Greek community,” one representative of the account said they were under the impression that Sigma Pi was the fraternity mentioned in the timely warning.
Two days after making a post about an incident at Sigma Pi, the representatives received information that contradicted their original beliefs regarding the fraternity, subsequently leading them to retract any posts implicating the fraternity.
The conflicting information, which came from a “very credible source,” made it clear to the representatives that the situation ran “a lot deeper than we expected” and was not limited to one specific fraternity, the two stated.
On Sunday, the Instagram account announced a “boycott” against Sigma Pi, where they planned to march from Sea Lookout Park to the Sigma Pi house, but the march was cancelled “to give time for the victims to heal,” a post on the account’s page read.
Like many on social media, Spencer Brandt, board president for the Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD), said he was “horrified” by the timely warning and supports students’ calls for the university “to name the fraternit[ies]” where the incidents occurred.
The I.V. CSD is partnering with Standing Together to End Sexual Assault, an organization dedicated to providing counseling and support services to survivors of sexual assault, Brandt added. The interpersonal violence investigator program, a collaboration with the UC Police Department and I.V. CSD, has been in place since 2018 to investigate cases relating to sexual violence, according to Brandt.
“The truth is that no one deserves to be made into a survivor. We all need to take a hard look at the I.V. culture and ask ourselves what about it enables so much sexual violence.”
Evelyn Spence and Sanya Kamidi contributed reporting.
Correction [Oct. 24, 1:26 a.m.]: A previous version of this article stated that President Alison Sir partnered with SASA for the Survivor Town Hall. This article has been updated to correct that Sir advertised the town hall – but is not a partner – and that the town hall is called Sexual Assault Town Hall.
This article has also been corrected to reflect the purpose of the SVSH Survivor Map.
A paragraph has also been removed that misrepresented information provided by Reynolds regarding sexual assaults on college campuses.