USC delayed information about Sigma Nu reports

Protesters complained of USC’s delay in informing the community about drugging and sexual assault incidents at Sigma Nu. (Amanda Chou | Daily Trojan)

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violence.

USC delayed taking action and informing the community about “five to seven” drugging and sexual assault cases at the Sigma Nu Fraternity house, according to a communitywide email sent Friday by President Carol Folt. The incidents, originally reported between Sept. 25 and 30, were first disclosed in a campuswide Department of Public Safety email Oct. 20. 

“We now know that there was a troubling delay in acting on this information, and specifically in evaluating it for notification to the community,” Folt wrote in the email. 

The incidents were first disclosed to USC’s Relationship & Sexual Prevention Services — an anonymous counseling resource part of USC Student Health. Information shared with RSVP is kept anonymous and “absent exceptional circumstances” remains confidential, according to the email. 

Any information shared with RSVP is not provided to DPS or Title IX, but an exception was made in this case, according to the email. The incidents were reported to DPS, Student Health, Student Affairs and the Office of Campus Wellbeing and Crisis Intervention on Sept. 30, according to Frequently Asked Questions included by Folt in her email. 

The initial report shared by RSVP was then forwarded by the campus departments to the Title IX office and a meeting was scheduled for Oct. 18 to decide how to proceed with the information. On Oct. 16, a student reported to DPS that they were sexually assaulted by a member of Sigma Nu and the Los Angeles Police Department began its investigation. LAPD has full jurisdiction over sexual assaults on campus requiring criminal investigations, according to the FAQ.

The Clery Office learned about the Oct. 16 student report and the RSVP information on Oct. 20 when a crime alert/timely warning report was sent campuswide at 10:30 p.m. The initial email mentioned reports of the sexual assault and drugging incidents and included resources, safety tips, DPS recommendations and asked for information related to the events. 

On Oct. 23, another email described additional reports of sexual assault and drugging, including at other fraternities. USC placed Sigma Nu on interim suspension on Oct. 20 and the Interfraternity Council voluntarily ceased all social activities. The University also said it would uphold IFC’s suspension in the Oct. 23 email.  

Students protested at the Row Thursday and protests continued over the weekend following an email that included the additional reports Saturday. On Oct. 24, IFC, in an email to the Daily Trojan, confirmed that it was investigating reports of fraternities violating the suspension of social activities that had been implemented four days prior. 

Ten days after the first email, additional cases of sexual assault and drugging at fraternities were reported to DPS and included in the Daily Crime & Fire Log. Five cases were reported ranging from Nov. 10, 2018 to Oct. 23, 2021 on Oct. 26 — including locations at the row such as Sigma Nu and Phi Kappa Tau and undisclosed locations. 

Crime logs between Oct. 27 and Oct. 29 listed seven additional cases of drugging and sexual assault. Many of these incidents took place at unknown locations while locations on the Row included Zeta Beta Tau and Chi Phi Eta Delta fraternities.

In the FAQ, the University said that suspension of social activities, equivalent to interim suspension, was already in place by the time new reports against additional fraternities were filed. A formal directive issued by USC asked fraternities to indefinitely “cease all official and unofficial chapter activities” including “social, recruitment, initiation, service and travel.”

Students continue to live in fraternity houses since the locations are not owned by USC and the IFC housing corporations are not owned or controlled by the University, according to the FAQ. 

“While we are aligned with our entire community in our zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, we are equally resolute about the need to respect the integrity of campus and criminal law enforcement processes,” the FAQ read. 

In her communitywide email Oct. 22, Folt wrote that USC had put an individual on interim suspension a day prior to the first DPS email. LAPD confirmed to the Daily Trojan Oct. 22 that former Sigma Nu president Ryan Schiffilea had been questioned and was the “main suspect” in the sexual assault reports. 

The University told the Daily Trojan Oct. 23 that it could not confirm who the suspended student was, citing student privacy laws.  

Protests and vigils have continued since the first DPS email came out including a “Save our Students” rally Friday, Oct. 29 organized by faculty. 

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.