The University of Utah has suspended all fraternity and sorority activities after a second student came forward to report a sexual assault at a Greek Row house — and more have posted anonymously online about their experiences.
The second student submitted a report to the school this week, which stated that they were assaulted in December. Because the report was anonymous, the U. is not currently releasing the name of the fraternity house where the assault allegedly occurred until it can be validated.
But in a letter sent out to all students and faculty Monday, the school noted that the second reported assault took place at a different fraternity house than the assault reported last week. The U. said it is currently working with Salt Lake City police to investigate both reports since the properties are off campus.
That first report was from a September “wine Wednesday” party at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, located at 41 S. University St. A female student attended the event with friends, according to the U., and wine was served by the fraternity. She told authorities that she was assaulted on a dance floor at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 23.
The U.’s Vice President for Student Affairs Lori McDonald announced that after the two reports, all Greek organizations tied to the school would be sanctioned.
No social activities will be permitted for the next two weeks. And the leaders of each fraternity and sorority will now be required to meet with university leaders to discuss the reported assaults, “the culture in their organizations” and how they will improve safety and accountability moving forward.
“Fraternities and sororities have operated adjacent to our campus for more than 100 years,” McDonald wrote in the letter, along with Dean of Students Jason Ramirez. “These independent organizations have been allowed to affiliate with the university with the understanding that they will serve the greater good of the campus community — building leadership, service, and community engagement skills among their members.”
She said that will no longer be allowed if the organizations are considered a threat to students.
The first reported assault, which was announced in a campuswide safety alert, spurred some students to talk about similar experiences at fraternities and sororities at the U. on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak. Allie Moore, a student employee at the U.’s McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, wrote a blog post about the conversations happening online.
One post from a male student, Moore wrote, noted: “Girls will come and grab my face to make out when I’m drunk and they don’t see that as a problem.”
According to Moore, another post from a female student read: “I’ve been assaulted sexually and physically at frats as a woman in Greek life it has ruined my experience to a degree because of the feeling of discomfort and nothing happened no matter what I said.”
In response, the center is hosting a series of dialogue sessions this month with sororities and fraternities about rape, abuse and consent.
Moore, who is also a member of a sorority, wrote: “The dialogue sessions will also allow [us] to plan action items that students can bring to their individual chapters and the broader Greek community to prevent relationship and sexual violence from happening.”
McDonald also encouraged anyone who has experienced an assault or witnessed an assault and would like to talk about it to reach out. Students may call Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000. They can also contact the university’s confidential victim-survivor advocates at 801-581-7776 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We stand with these survivors,” McDonald said. “If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please know that it is not your fault and there are resources to support you.”
While this is the first time in recent years that the U.’s Greek Row has been under examination, other schools in the state have faced serious issues with assaults at fraternities and sororities.
The Greek system at Utah State University in Logan was overhauled in 2018 after several high-profile assaults.
A student filed suit against USU after she was raped in July 2015 by then-Sigma Chi fraternity member Jason Relopez. The lawsuit claimed that five other women had reported to the school that Relopez sexually assaulted them before the student was attacked and before administrators did much to act on that knowledge. The school said Relopez had been on its “radar” but denied receiving five previous assault reports.
Relopez remained on campus until his arrest. He was then suspended from the university and later pleaded guilty to attempted rape and forcible sexual abuse, admitting that he sexually assaulted two women in two years. He was sentenced to a year in jail.
At least four other USU students have been charged or convicted in sexual assault cases alleged to have occurred since 2013. That includes a 2015 complaint against Ryan Wray, then-president of Pi Kappa Alpha, which is around the corner from Sigma Chi in Logan. Wray pleaded guilty to attempted forcible sex abuse and was sentenced to six months in jail.
In a settlement, USU agreed to increase oversight of its sororities and fraternities, including hiring a full-time coordinator to ensure the houses comply with the law and conduct annual, mandatory sexual assault prevention training.