Reportedly inspired by a previous Twitter thread highlighting the locations of sexual predators in another part of California, Erin Spates, a UCR alumnus, decided to take similar action. On Tuesday, June 2 she created her own thread in direct response to a tweet regarding abuse committed by UCR fraternity members. Spates declared that if anyone had a sexual assault story involving students at UCR that they wanted to share with the public, then she would add their anecdote while preserving their anonymity.
Spates stated that she received an inundation of direct messages from individuals imparting their own personal experiences as victims of sexual assault. From there, the thread quickly gained traction with over 80 given accounts, well over 2,000 retweets and more than 7,000 likes on the popular social media platform at time of writing.
In an interview with The Highlander, Spates admitted that though responses have been largely positive, there are plenty of people who are vocally upset about it. On her personal Twitter, she has received more than a few threats and violent attempts at cyberbullying, but regardless Spates has not stopped, and continues adding onto the thread fueled by the desire to spread awareness of sexual assault.
The Twitter thread eventually caught the attention of faculty a day later as users began tagging UCR in their comments. The school’s official Twitter account issued a statement saying that they were thankful the information had been brought to the attention of the university. They added that the Title IX Office will be looking into all of the cases mentioned on Twitter, and encouraged survivors to utilize the online Title IX reporting system.
This however, prompted some people to speak up about another related issue; individuals claimed that the Title IX Office is not always helpful when it comes to handling reported cases of sexual assault. One anonymous report on Twitter stated that the counselors involved in their particular predicament took the side of the accused when the charge was denied, even though the victim avowedly had two primary eyewitnesses. Spates herself reiterated this sentiment, adding that she has seen Title IX fail before and she hopes that the thread, which has garnered so much attention, “Brings to light how seriously you need to take these reports.”
In response to these statements, the Associate Vice Chancellor and Interim Title IX Director at UCR Kiersten Boyce, said in an interview with The Highlander that the entire UCR team, including the Title IX and Equal Employment and Affirmative Action Office, CARE, Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Programs (SCAIP), Residential Life, HR, UCPD, Respondent Services and Academic Personnel is, “Dedicated to responding to reports promptly and compassionately.”
Boyce added that in 2019, the investigation and adjudication processes were drastically modified by the UC Office of the President (UCOP), in order to meet new legal requirements. They are currently being revised once more in response to the new standards released by the Trump administration, indicating even more change to come.
Still, Boyce assured that in regards to the Twitter thread, UCR’s Title IX Office is treating the situation seriously and as is standard in the case of anonymous reports. She stated that there is little that the university can do for those who have already graduated as it falls out of their jurisdiction, but the rest will be addressed appropriately. Boyce reiterated that the Title IX Office is committed to making their processes, “As fair, thorough, and equitable as possible for our students, faculty and staff, so that those who assault, harass or otherwise violate the rights of others can be held accountable.”
UCR’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) also presented their own statement in regards to the Twitter thread, acknowledging that many of the accused in the thread were or are affiliated with fraternities on campus. On Wednesday, June 3, the council took to Instagram in order to express their sympathy for the victims in the anonymous thread and applauded them for speaking out. In their official statement, they announced that due to the emergence of the thread, ”IFC now publicly demands that all fraternities with members accused of any sort of sexual misbehaviour or harassment immediately suspend their memberships indefinitely until the allegations are resolved through an official investigation conducted by professionals.” The council promised that the sexual assault allegations are being treated with the utmost sincerity, adding that they are openly working with the Title IX, CARE and Student Conduct Offices and encouraging all victims to come forward and share their stories.
However, this too sparked some controversy, as numerous individuals on Instagram voiced their opinions about IFC’s announcement, criticizing and questioning the university and the council’s response. One of the aforementioned users, Michelle Arteaga, a fourth-year sociology major, spoke with The Highlander about her concerns regarding IFC’s past of complacency. “I feel like it’s sad to see that it took this Twitter thread for IFC to make this official statement,” she stated.
Arteaga maintained that the IFC should be taking more action, especially when considering the high amount of cases being brought to public attention. She added that it is upsetting to note how much effort is put into solving instances of crimes like hazing, when there is a lack thereof in cases of sexual assault. “I hope that this shines a light on the Greek community and shows IFC that these fraternities are not valuing what they stand for,” Arteaga concluded.
Another user who criticized the Instagram post, Melissa Sagun, a fourth-year political science major, shared similar opinions. She expressed her approval of IFC issuing a public statement in regards to the Twitter thread, but indicated that doing so was merely “scratching the surface.” Sagun added that there should be more direct action in order to make the community better and eradicate the culture of sexual misconduct. “They need to holistically take a step back and reevaluate what it means to be a better ally and advocate, as well as fully apologize to the victims who came forward,” she stated.
Sagun asserted that in addition to the IFC, all UCR leadership and faculty needs to work together in order to provide greater resources for survivors. She claimed that they need to make moves to better prevent sexual assault from occurring, especially when “many people are discouraged from reporting to the police and going to the Title IX Office because of horrible past experiences.” She added that the administration of both organizations don’t want this “horrible pattern and culture to continue in the professional world, hurting more people along the way.”
In an interview with The Highlander relating to the thread, Chancellor Kim Wilcox commended individuals seeking to shed light on the university culture of sexual misconduct. He stated, ”UCR will review these allegations and pursue investigative and legal remedies for those cases that are found to warrant action.”
The Highlander also reached out to the IFC and many of the accused for additional commentary, but at time of writing, they have not responded to requests for comment.