Editor’s Note: The content in this article mentions sexual assault and drugging.
As a response to the release of a crime report on Nov. 4, alerting the Cornell community to at least four drugging incidents and a sexual assault allegation, the Interfraternity Council has temporarily suspended all fraternity parties and social events.
In a university-wide email, President Martha Pollack and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi issued a joint statement condemning the reported incidents and calling for solidarity.
“We are outraged and saddened… we strongly condemn the actions of all individuals responsible for these criminal violations,” Pollack and Lombardi wrote. “Crime is never the fault of those who are victimized. The university is providing support services to the victims… our campus community is stronger together.”
According to the C.U.police crime report log, within the past two months at least four students have reported being exposed to Rohypnol, a depressant and benzodiazepine also referred to as “roofies” or a “date-rape” drug. According to the report, the incident occurred between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3 at 800 University Avenue.
“Students reported to have consumed little to no alcohol at an off-campus location but became incapacitated while attending parties,” the police report said.
On Nov. 6, at approximately 4:45 a.m., the C.U.police crime report log shows that another student reported being sexually assaulted while attending an event at 140 Thurston Avenue. There has not been a release of further details, as the investigations are ongoing.
Given the recent chain of events and past rumored incidents of drugging allegedly involving needles being used, students voiced increased safety concerns.
“Day to day, I feel safe going to Cornell,” said Zoe Yao ’23. “However, given everything that has happened and everything from last year as well, similar drugging rumors, I would say I do not necessarily feel safe going to certain fraternities.”
In response to the rising concerns, the IFC, which governs more than 30 IFC-recognized fraternities at Cornell, is working with the University to implement stronger health and safety plans for students. As its first step, IFC voluntarily made a decision Sunday evening to suspend all fraternity social events.
“The IFC Executive Board and current IFC Chapter Presidents made the decision to suspend all fraternity functions on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022,” wrote the IFC executive board in an email to The Sun. “The IFC is currently working toward enhancing plans to keep the community and students safe and will use subject matter experts and available resources to promote health and safety.”
In the past, Cornell fraternities have been implicated in the deaths of two students. In 2011, Sigma Alpha Epsilon was temporarily suspended and returned this year after hazing George Desdunes ’13 to death, and in 2019, Antonio Tsialas ’23 was found dead at the Fall Creek Gorge after attending a “dirty rush” event at Phi Kappa Psi. The last ban on Inter-Fraternity Council social events was put into place in 2019 following the death of Tsialas.
“My freshman year Antonio Tsialas passed away,” Yao said. “From there, Martha Pollack, our president, made a good move and reformed Greek life in the spring of that year. It has definitely had implications on the social scene and Greek life for the past couple of years since then”
However, despite the changes, Yao said that more incidents of laced drinks and drugging have recently surfaced.
“We already have regulations on alcohol at the parties: registering parties, having bands and sober monitors,” Yao said. “[They] all feel like bandages to the fundamental problem.”
The IFC wrote to The Sun that it is looking into “current practices” to ensure a safe and welcoming community.
“We take these reports extremely seriously as this directly infringes upon the principles that the IFC stands for,” the IFC executive board wrote. “The IFC strives to create a safe and welcoming community on campus and we plan to take a hard look at our current practices and see where we can change holistically to better support our campus.”
In a statement to the Sun, the IFC recognized the bravery of the students who came forward and reported the incidents.
“Furthermore, we affirm the bravery of those individuals in our campus community who made the important choice to come forward,” IFC executive board wrote.
Moving forward, the IFC said they plan to utilize its sexual violence prevention task force to work towards the goal of preventing the crimes from being committed again.
“Student and Campus Life is working alongside the IFC to review the current culture and identify areas for growth that will result in positive change for the whole community,” the IFC executive board wrote.
Yao urged the University to work together with campus fraternities and sororities to further develop solutions.
“They are only going to be effective and safe if the school is able to work with fraternities and sororities, rather than imposing it on them,” Yao said. “That is going to ensure great accountability, consensus and more productive conversation.”
If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of sexual assault, confidential resources are available across campus. A list of confidential resources can be found on the SHARE website and include the staff within the Women’s Resource Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, The Office of Spirituality and Meaning Making, as well as the CURW affiliates. A comprehensive list of supportive resources is available at mentalhealth.cornell.edu.
Students in need of professional mental health support can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 607-255-5155 and employees can call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. Whenever these services are closed, calls are answered by Cornell Health’s on-call mental health provider. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is also available at 607-272-1616.
Anyone with information that would be helpful in these active investigations should contact the Cornell Police at (607) 255-1111 or through the RAVE Guardian app or through the Silent Witness program. You may also report to Ithaca Police Department at (607) 272-3245; tip line: (607) 330-0000.
Correction, Nov. 9, 11:10 a.m.: A previous version of this article inaccurately said that the University temporarily suspended all fraternity parties and social events. That decision was made by the Interfraternity Council.