UCLA has canceled this summer’s Bruin Woods alumni camp in Lake Arrowhead and placed its counselors under different supervisors after two female students filed a lawsuit alleging that they were sexually abused and subject to “traditions” that included sensory deprivation, forced nudity and being required to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
“We are aware of allegations of inappropriate activity concerning our Bruin Woods program and continue to look into the matter. We are also making changes in an effort to provide an exceptional experience for everyone,” UCLA spokesperson Margery Grey said Friday, May 12.
Attorneys for the defendants — the University of California Regents and the two counselors accused in the lawsuit of sexual abuse — denied all allegations against them in separate court filings.
Bruin Woods is a camp for alumni and their families that takes place each summer at Lake Arrowhead Lodge in the San Bernardino Mountains. Bruin Woods hires some 50 counselors each year from among its student body who were, until camp was canceled, supervised by staff from the Lake Arrowhead Lodge under UCLA’s Department of Housing & Hospitality, Grey said.
But when camp reopens, the counselors will be supervised by Student Affairs, which Grey described as “world-renowned in training of staff and educating students in leadership for work-in-residence programs.”
Attorney Scott H. Carr, who sued the UC Regents and the two counselors, said Friday that the problematic hazing took place despite the presence of two people who were supervising counselors.
“I think the summer closure is a good first step in trying to prevent this kind of conduct from occurring in the future,” Carr said.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges negligence, assault, battery, hazing, gender violence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks $50,000 in general damages as well as compensation for expenses that include attorney’s fees.
A trial has been set for Feb. 20, 2024.
The lawsuit says 30 new counselors, who serve in capacities such as boat drivers, lifeguards and activity leaders, were hired in 2022 to join 20 returning counselors. The positions are coveted because they provide students with an opportunity to network with alumni.
But the two female students who are suing said they were subject to food and sleep deprivation and were forced to drink alcohol paid for with their own money. Some of these hazing activities were known as “traditions.”
“On multiple occasions, plaintiffs and other new hires were subjected to physical abuse such as being forced to walk to a warehouse without shoes on and pillowcases over their heads, then to hold their arms in the air until they lost circulation; being woken up daily by loud music and screaming from people who did not have plaintiffs’ consent to enter their rooms; being coerced to consume copious amounts of alcohol while driving up a windy mountain road, with the ‘challenge’ being making it up to the top of the mountain without vomiting …” the lawsuit says.
The packing list for counselors for 2022, the lawsuit says, included fake identifications for counselors under the legal drinking age and birthcontrol.
It was unclear whether the counselors identified in the lawsuit were facing a criminal investigation. Carr said he was not aware of any such investigation, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was looking into that question Friday afternoon.
Alumni who were planning to attend Bruin Woods this summer will instead be able to stay at Lake Arrowhead Lodge and participate in sporting activities and outdoor games there, said Grey, the UCLA spokesperson.
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