Students protest after reports of sexual assault, drugging at Sigma Nu

The university announced the fraternity’s temporary suspension Wednesday night.

A crowd of dozens of protesters sit on the lawn outside the Sigma Nu fraternity house.

Content Warning: This story mentions a report of sexual assault.

Several dozen students gathered in protest in front of the Sigma Nu fraternity house Thursday following reports of sexual assault and drugging at the property. The university announced Wednesday night that Sigma Nu would be temporarily suspended.

The Department of Public Safety announced the suspension to the student body in an email Wednesday night, saying the university received a report of sexual assault following a party at the Sigma Nu fraternity house on West 28th Street as well as several reports of drugging at a party on the property.

According to a DPS log published Thursday, there were six separate reports that students had been drugged while attending parties at Sigma Nu between Sept. 27 and Oct. 20.

The suspension prohibits Sigma Nu from hosting or organizing events of any kind, whether at the official fraternity house or other locations.

DPS reported the incidents to the Los Angeles Police Department, which will handle the investigation. LAPD did not respond immediately for comment on this story.

In a statement to Annenberg Media, the USC Interfraternity Council (IFC) wrote that the council is “disturbed and angered” by the recent reports of misconduct at Sigma Nu.

“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 elsewhere,” the statement said. “We are deeply apologetic for the trauma caused and impact on victims and the University of Southern California community as a whole.”

IFC has currently suspended social activities across all fraternities at USC and plans to cooperate with and support the ongoing investigation into Sigma Nu, according to the statement.

Yahm Steinberg, a senior studying theatre who attended the protest, said they don’t attend fraternity parties because of their reputation for spiking drinks. While Steinberg said not every fraternity is complicit, it happens enough that they don’t feel comfortable going to the events.

“Part of the reason that I’m not part [of Greek life] is because I know I don’t want to put myself in a position where to have fun I have to worry about my safety,” Steinberg said.

Because the majority of sexual assaults go unreported each year, Steinberg said it’s likely these incidents happen far more often than the greater student body hears about them. They said they hoped to see more people in attendance at the protest, especially members of fraternities and sororities.

“It is time to stop letting this be OK and letting this happen because no one’s safe from it,” Steinberg said. “And we have to stop letting it be normalized because it is.”

Kian Abrishami, a member of Kappa Alpha majoring in biomedical engineering and computer science, said he hoped to change the culture of Greek life when he joined his fraternity.

Abrishami attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where he said himself and several friends had been drugged at parties before he transferred to USC.

“When I see it’s still going on and happening like this, it pisses me off and I wish there was more that we could do, as a chapter,” Abrishami said. “I wish we saw more fraternity brothers here as a whole.”

Abrishami added he is now considering dropping his fraternity.

USC fraternities have been suspended and, in some cases, permanently removed over the years for various reasons. In 2009, Lambda Chi Alpha was temporarily suspended after university officials said three women reported assaults at the fraternity. The university announced the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity would be unrecognized in 2019 after it violated hazing regulations, and several other fraternities have been suspended in the last few years for hazing.

USC wrote in a statement to Annenberg Media that the university provides a fair and timely resolution process following reports of sexual assault.

“We are deeply concerned when any student experiences any kind of trauma, and we offer both private and confidential support resources, as well as supportive measures, to involved parties,” the university said. “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.”

Tannistha Sinha and Anna Babiak contributed to this report.

Any student who has been a victim of sexual assault is encouraged to seek out the Sexual Assault and Survivor Support resources offered by USC.

This story was updated on Oct. 22 to reflect a statement provided by IFC and correct the spelling of a contributor’s name.