Stung by last week's rape allegations and rowdy behavior during a football game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego State University on Thursday warned that it will crack down on fraternity-sponsored alcohol abuse connected with the incidents.
Serving notice that fraternity presidents will suffer personally if their organizations are connected to "an incident of concern," Vice President of Student Affairs Daniel Nowak warned those 17 men to police the actions of their brothers and protect women attending functions at their houses.
"The reality of excessive alcoholic beverage consumption at sponsored and private events must cease," Nowak wrote in an open letter to the fraternity presidents. " . . . Suffice it to say that the cumulative errors of judgment, lack of discretion and failure to exercise common sense associated with alcohol abuse can no longer be tolerated.
"Neither the university nor your fraternity can afford the embarrassment of news stories and police investigative reports which quote victims, suspects and witnesses as beginning their testimony with 'I really can't remember what happened because I was too drunk.' "
Nowak threatened that SDSU will seek the arrest of any fraternity president whose house is caught serving alcohol to underage students. It will also seek the arrest of others involved and suspend the fraternity from campus.
Doug Case, adviser to the fraternities, said the letters were prompted by a "common pattern that seemed to be developing with sexual assault and sexual assault relating to people who had consumed too much alcohol."
D. Keith Larsen, president of the Interfraternity Council that governs the 17 SDSU fraternities, said, "It's up to the fraternity presidents to educate their members . . . Hey, Nowak told them the score. Then they can play the game the way they want to."
But Larsen said that SDSU does not have the power to stop the serving of alcohol at fraternities. "That will never happen, and you can quote me directly on that," he said. "They don't have the right. If I'm 21, I have the right to drink alcohol, both on the street and in my fraternity house."
Larsen said he believed that if SDSU leaders are not satisfied with the fraternities' response to the letters and if there are future incidents, they "will look into seeing what they can do about disbanding fraternities from SDSU." After a year dominated by the publicity surrounding a freshman's claim that she was sexually assaulted by three men at a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity party last November, SDSU was the scene of three reported rapes this month.
A freshman woman told police that she was raped in bushes near the campus health center on Sept. 6 by a man who offered to escort her home. The woman, who had become separated from friends, had been drinking.
Last Friday, a 19-year old UC Santa Barbara student told police that she was raped in a bedroom at a fraternity house after drinking at a private party.
A 21-year old SDSU student was booked into County Jail in connection with the claim, but charges were dropped when the woman told campus police she was reluctant to press charges.
Another SDSU student reported early Sunday that she had been raped after attending a Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity party with a date after the SDSU football game. She said she had become separated from her date, left the party with the assailant and was raped in an apartment near campus, police said. She, too, is not pressing charges.
Saturday, 29 people were arrested and another 25 were ejected from the stadium during the SDSU-UCLA football game, mostly for fighting and vandalism. Policed blamed most of the incidents on fans who had been drinking.
Nowak's letter and a similar warning from Michael Hoctor, director of housing and residential life, were released to media as SDSU students gathered for a Rape Action Forum to discuss how to make campus women safer from rape.
About 60 participants--including some fraternity members--discussed the need for better lighting on campus, holding night-time classes near well-trafficked areas and more extensive education for both men and women, said Jeannette Downes, co-coordinator of the Women's Resource Center at SDSU.
"Men are feeling that the crimes on campus are escalating, and women are feeling that they can no longer brush it aside and say, 'It can never happen to me,' " Downes said. "With three women in three weeks, it's no longer possible to say, 'Well she asked for it.' And women still think that way, as well as men."
Nowak and Hoctor ordered increased attention to protection of women in fraternities and policing of alcohol served to underage students.