Fraternity parties back at UC Berkeley with new rules after reported sex assaults

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SAN FRANCISCO — Fraternity and sorority parties will be back this weekend at the University of California, Berkeley after a one-week suspension, but with new guidelines aimed at keeping the often booze-filled bashes free of sexual violence.

Berkeley's Greek system imposed a voluntary ban on parties a week ago, a move it called unprecedented, after two women reported being sexually assaulted at off-campus fraternity houses.

At this weekend's pre-Halloween parties, guests will be greeted at the front door with "consent talks," Divya Thomas, president of the Panhellenic Council, said Thursday. The guidelines were drawn up at a meeting with the Interfraternity Council, which represents the school's two dozen fraternities.

The 1- to 2-minute talk will focus on what consent to have sex means.

In California, "Yes means yes," which means consent must be explicitly stated and that silence, lack of resistance or intoxication is not considered consent. Thomas said the talk will also encourage "bystander intervention," which means that if people see activity they believe does not involve consent they should report it.

"We just want to create a safe party culture where all the members can feel safe," said Thomas, a 21-year-old senior and a member of Alpha Delta Pi. The Panhellenic Council overseas Berkeley's 12 sororities.

At least three "sober monitors" will be required at every party, and their contact information will be made public to the Greek community, Thomas said.

Serving hard alcohol at fraternity parties is already banned, and that will continue, said Thomas, who said some of the guidelines loosely existed before but weren't enforced. Beer and wine are permitted.

More than 100 members of fraternities and sororities joined last Saturday's meeting to develop the measures, a move that Thomas called a positive step in working together to prevent sexual violence.

The party ban came after two female students reported sexual assaults at off-campus fraternity parties on Oct. 14 and 15. According to the university's crime statistics, 22 rapes were reported on-campus or in student housing in 2015 and four rapes were reported off-campus.

The discussions come amid heightened attention to sexual assaults on college campuses and just months after the high-profile case of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Turner's six-month prison sentence drew public outrage.

"Sexual assault and ending sexual violence is something that requires a change in the culture on college campuses," Thomas said. "It's not an easy thing to do."

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