Students protest outside Sigma Nu after reports of drugging, sexual assaults
Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violence.
Students gathered outside Sigma Nu on the Row Thursday after the University put the Sigma Nu fraternity house on interim suspension because of drugging and sexual assault reports.
The interim suspension was announced in a communitywide email sent by the Department of Public Safety Wednesday night. Sigma Nu is forbidden from hosting social events at its house and holding any events or activities, according to the email.
Following the email, multiple incidents of drugging and assault were reported to DPS ranging between Sept. 27 to Oct. 20. At the time of publication, the DPS crime log had seven different reports related to drugging — six at Sigma Nu, while one was at an undisclosed location.
According to an anonymous source within Sigma Nu, the person accused of the assault was removed from the fraternity the day before DPS’s email.
LAPD confirmed in an email to the Daily Trojan that there is an ongoing investigation but wrote that no arrest had been made.
The protest addressed long-standing problems with Greek life, protesters said, including complacency, racism and misogyny.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t think [USC has] said anything of substance,” said Finley Davis, a senior majoring in political science and Spanish. “Even the houses on the Row, even sorority houses aren’t saying anything. It’s more about protecting themselves and the institutions that they’re a part of than it is actually protecting the people who are harmed by them.”
Davis, who is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, also criticized sororities’ lack of presence at the protest and said now should be the time for Greek life to show it “doesn’t stand for this.”
“I’ve seen less than 10 people from my own house, which is right across the street. I haven’t seen any sororities show up in actual numbers, which was shocking to me, and we were told not to wear our letters or anything with our house on it,” Davis said. “And the frats were told that, too.”
In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the Interfraternity Council said the allegations went against their work for sexual assault prevention and awareness. They added that all social events had been suspended until “deliberate action” was taken including actionable steps such as “social events, recruitment, new member processes, and the ways members are held accountable.”
“We are disgusted this violence took place in our community,” the statement read. “There is no place for this abhorrent misconduct nor a culture that supports it in the Interfraternity Council community at the University of Southern California or anywhere.”
Quinn Pettit, a junior majoring in environmental studies, said the issues in Greek life are systemic and the culture allows sexual assaults to occur more frequently.
“There is a greater issue, and it’s that the entire system allows for sexual assault … in Greek life more than in most other situations,” Pettit said. “There’s a reason behind that, and it’s that the system allows for men to take advantage of women.”
In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the University wrote that it provides a “fair, thorough and timely resolution process.”
“USC takes reports of sexual assault extremely seriously and has a coordinated response team designed to promptly respond,” the University wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “While we are unable to discuss the specifics of this matter due to student privacy laws, we are unequivocal in our commitment to fostering a safe environment for all of our students, faculty and staff.”
However, Pettit said the University should work more to address the sexual assault incidents beyond suspensions.
“I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that this behavior continues and that the system allows for it to happen,” Pettit said. “I feel like the University is not doing enough about it. Canceling parties is not going to make up for lifelong trauma that somebody is going to experience.”
A junior majoring in business administration, who wanted to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said she knows many people — including herself — who have been sexually assaulted. The student said she hopes there will be more accountability beyond the interim suspension in place.
“If there’s someone in the house that sexually assaults someone, then why are you only on interim probation,” the student said. “You should be expelled and kicked off the Row — like that doesn’t make any sense. There’s just not enough accountability.”
In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the Sigma Nu Fraternity headquarters wrote that it will work with the University’s investigation and is “concerned” by the allegations.
“The Fraternity will determine its further actions based upon the investigation. Sigma Nu Fraternity remains committed to responding appropriately to all matters of confirmed misconduct,” the email read.
After Sigma Nu’s suspension, multiple fraternities canceled parties and mixers scheduled for this weekend, according to information obtained by the Daily Trojan.
Sigma Nu is not the first fraternity put on interim suspension by the University.
In 2018 and 2019, the University suspended Sigma Alpha Mu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Phi Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Phi for hazing allegations.
It also suspended Pi Kappa Alpha for alleged drug use, as well as Sigma Delta Alpha and Tau Kappa Epsilon because of prior investigations related to hazing.
In 2013, the National Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity officially banned the Sigma Phi Epsilon California Beta Chapter “for up to five years” after reports of sexual misconduct. The chapter does not currently exist at the University.
While the University lifted Phi Sigma Kappa and Sigma Alpha Mu’s suspensions after a month, Pi Kappa Phi lost University recognition the same year because of a hazing investigation. In 2019, the University stopped recognizing Theta Xi after a separate hazing investigation.
The investigation into Sigma Nu is ongoing. The Daily Trojan reached out to DPS for a comment but was referred to LAPD.
Sasha Ryu contributed to this report.
UPDATE: This story was updated 10/21 at 11:40 p.m. to include LAPD and IFC’s statement. Information from an anonymous source from Sigma Nu and a student interview was also added. The USC chapter of Sigma Nu did not respond to multiple requests for a comment.
Editor’s note: The story will be updated with statements from LAPD and IFC. The Daily Trojan also reached out to the USC Sigma Nu chapter for a statement but did not hear back in time for publication.
If you are in need of support, here are some resources you can contact:
USC Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services: Located at Engemann Student Health Center Suite 356. Individuals can call (213)-740-9355 and request to speak with an advocate or counselor. Services are confidential.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): A free, confidential hotline that is active 24/7. Individuals can call (800)-656-4673.