By Courtney Sherwood
PORTLAND, Ore., Oct 23 (Reuters) - A task force formed in response to sexual violence at the University of Oregon is urging the school's leaders to suspend plans to expand the number of sororities and fraternities, citing their outsized involvement in these assaults.
The university's task force on Wednesday issued of series of recommendations, also calling on university leaders to create an office to address sexual assault and violence, fund self-defense training for women and revise a number of campus policies.
"Preventing sexual violence will involve changing the culture of the university at all levels," Carol Stabile, a journalism and women's studies professor who delivered the recommendations, said in a written statement.
The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students nationwide falling victim to sex assault during their college years.
The "Twenty Students Per Week" report, named for the frequency with which students at Oregon face attempted or completed sexual assaults, cited studies showing that fraternity members are more likely to commit rape than other college men, and that sorority members at the university are more than twice as likely to experience rape or attempted rape as their peers.
University policy "encourages the growth of the fraternity and sorority community," and the school is engaged in a multi-year effort to bring more Greek organizations to campus, according to its office of Fraternity & Sorority Life.
The task force urged the university to suspend such expansion. If the recommendations are followed, the university would join a small but growing number of colleges taking steps to address sexual assaults in connection with fraternities and sororities.
For example, Clemson University in South Carolina temporarily banned fraternities from holding social events or recruiting after a member died in a hazing incident this year. Amherst College in Massachusetts, which has long banned these groups on campus, this year prohibited students from participating in off-campus fraternities as well.
Interim University of Oregon President Scott Coltrane said in a statement late on Wednesday that he would wait until at least December, when additional recommendations on the matter are due from an outside panel, before he implements any policy changes.
"Many of these require resources, and we will need to look at that carefully to prioritize and focus our efforts," Coltrane said. "But we have to tackle this, and we will tackle it on multiple levels."
The task force report was commissioned after the university faced criticism earlier this year for its handling of an alleged rape involving three men's basketball players that preceded the resignation of university president Michael Gottfredson. (Reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Will Dunham)