UC Santa Barbara’s Students Against Sexual Assault hosted a town hall on Thursday, aiming to facilitate discussion surrounding the recent allegations of sexual assaults at fraternity events, sexual assault prevention training and the university’s timely warning system.
A variety of UCSB administrators and personnel participated in the panel, including Assistant Vice Chancellor Katya Armistead, Title IX Officer Ariana Alvarez and representatives from UC Police Department and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO). Alia Reynolds, president and UCSB coordinator of Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), led conversation with administrators.
The panel discussed plans to further educate students on sexual assault prevention, including expanding mandatory sexual violence and harassment training to all clubs and sports teams and putting trainings online through GauchoSpace.
One key distinction between SASA and UCSB’s position about what action to take in light of recent allegations is the university’s mutual no-contact orders, which state that neither respondent or survivor can be near one another in shared public spaces. SASA, per Reynolds, claimed during the town hall that this prohibits survivors from accessing areas integral to their education.
SASA supports California Senate Bill 493, which, as Reynolds explained in the meeting, aims to ensure that sexual assault survivors have equal access to education through the abolition of mutual no-contact orders and resources for survivors.
The UC currently does not support the abolition of mutual no-contact orders, SASA explained during the meeting.
During the panel discussion, Tallin Moyer, a member of SASA and Pi Beta Phi sorority, read a statement on sexual violence in Greek life and requested updates on other concerns.
“Greek life can provide a facility for leadership and self-growth — however, it is unacceptable that we as a Greek community have not realized the true magnititude of how our system enables sexual violence,” she said.
“Members of Greek life need to realize how fraternities foster rape culture and put individual safety at risk. It is unacceptable to think these events have occurred in a vacuum.”
During public comment, one Greek life-affiliated student voiced her concerns about Sigma Pi’s participation in Arrowjam, an annual dance competition hosted by sorority Pi Beta Phi in order to raise money for Read > Lead > Achieve — a charity dedicated to children’s literacy.
Moyer, whose sorority hosted the philanthropy, told the student that she understood the concerns.
“I agree with you, that was not taken into consideration at all, and I hear you, that it could be triggering to see them up there … It was the opinion of some of the women in our sorority that not all the men in Sigma Pi should be punished for the actions of a few. But I totally understand the concern, and [we] will be talking to our president about it,” she said.
Sigma Pi went on to compete and win the fraternity portion of the competition, which occurred on Nov. 8, eight days before the SASA Town Hall.
SASA also promoted its Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Map at the town hall. The map, facilitated by SASA, includes the UCSB campus and surrounding Isla Vista community. Anyone can anonymously report instances of sexual violence or harassment, which are pinned onto the digital map. Yellow pins stand for one report at a location and red stands for multiple.
“It’s mostly faith-based, although I am cautious about calling it that, but we are in the sense of believing survivors. But we see everything that goes through, and we monitor it closely,” Moyer said.
Reynolds then inquired to administrators about the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) training email, which was sent to the entire student body on Nov. 1, soon after a timely warning email was sent out about a reported sexual assault at Sigma Pi.
“We personally were concerned about the timeliness of the email about R.A.D., because obviously it was sent out during a very triggering, emotional time for many students,” she said. “The email only served to increase these feelings. We were also concerned that the email mentioned only women, which seemed to exclude men and gender non-conforming folks.”
Matt Ollman, representative for SBSO, explained that while the timing of the email was unfortunate, it had already been scheduled and pre-selected. R.A.D. training is heavily overviewed by the national organization and leaves little room for individual departments to change gender pronouns or create more inclusive wording, he added.
Explanation regarding email alerts for the student body was another topic of discussion throughout the town hall. UCSB has two forms of communication for alerts: emergency notifications and timely warnings, which fall under Clery Act jurisdiction. The Clery Act mandates public safety reports on specific crime categories, including sexual assault.
Emergency notifications are “designed to give information about ongoing threats,” UCPD’s Community Service Officer Ariel Bournes explained.
Clery Timely Warning Notices fall under a different, highly specific category of warning, and failing to issue one that meets the criteria means a potential fine of up to $57,300, according to Associate Dean of Student Life Miles Ashlock.
“If we become aware of something that violates the Clery Act, we are mandated to report it, simply because a report has been filed and not because it has been investigated. The university is mandated to send Clery warnings only about Clery crimes that occur on university property… it’s a really bizarre, unique set of circumstances,” Ashlock said.
Reynolds also inquired about the safety prevention tips issued in one such timely warning, including covering one’s drink or never taking drinks from strangers.
“We feel like the burden is being placed on the survivor once again, especially when the tips are things like, ‘Cover your drink, don’t take drinks from strangers,’ she explained to Ashlock. “We know these things. These things aren’t new to us. You are expecting people to control their own safety, in a sense.”
Ashlcok responded by stating that “one of the challenges of violence prevention education is coming at it from all these different angles.”
“We want to have a clear message against violence in the community. There is not one proven method of violence prevention. There are a lot of different things, and not all of them feel good even to us, but we want to provide a variety of tools so in aggregate we reduce the rates of violence in our community,” he said.
During the Q&A portion of the event, many students still had concerns about the existence of sexual violence within UCSB’s Greek life.
“We can’t just put a Band-Aid over this,” Moyer said in response to one student concerned about a lack of accountability within fraternities.
“To truly eradicate this culture and make a change, we can’t just remove one specific fraternity, but instead perform surgery on our culture as a Greek community.”