Students allege hazing, assault at UCLA summer camp in lawsuit: 'It's so dangerous'

Thursday, October 20, 2022
Students allege hazing, assault at UCLA summer camp in lawsuit
Two UCLA students hired as counselors for Bruin Woods camp allege in their lawsuit that the experience was filled with inappropriate behavior.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A family resort in Lake Arrowhead run by UCLA is marketed as an ideal place for current and former Bruins to come together: students run the camp while alumni and their families attend it.

This past summer, Lydia Dixon and Samea Derrick were thrilled to be two of the newest hires at Bruin Woods, but their expectations for the camp quickly changed.

"They're creating a place for people to be assaulted, like with binge drinking, with doors that don't lock and with way more women than men," said Derrick, a second-year UCLA student. "It's so dangerous."

Both students immediately felt forced to drink heavily in order to fit in - even if they don't drink, even if they're underage. They allege it started at various meetups in the months before camp, and escalating days before the first families arrived.

"That (first) night, I got really drunk and I actually ended up blacking out, and that's when I got assaulted by the returning staffer," said Dixon, a third-year student.

Dixon reported that person and was grateful that he was immediately sent home, but that would be the beginning of what has manifested into a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday against the University of California Regents.

Attorney Scott Carr of Greene Broillet and Wheeler represents both Dixon and Derrick. He cited a Daily Bruin article from 1999 that quotes one returning staffer who said, "It takes someone who knows life is a party and who is willing to get naked and swim in the lake" as part of the criteria for what makes a qualified staff member.

"This has been going on for a long time and it needs to stop," said Carr, who blames a culture of secrecy as a major reason why hazing, such as what his suit alleges, is allowed to persist. "You look at fraternities. For a long time, they were hazing, and a lot of it was kept under the radar because of secrecy, because of coercion. Things people do to prevent it from becoming public."

The suit alleges the hazing journey for Derrick accelerated on the drive to Bruin Woods.

"You stop at this liquor store right before you go up this very windy road, and they give you a Four Loko," said Derrick, referring to a malt liquor drink. "The goal is to finish the entire Four Loko as you go up the mountain without throwing up."

She and Dixon shared a packing list they say their bosses sent to them. The list included items such as a fake ID, condoms and birth control.

Over the following days, they felt coerced into what was sold as traditions. Allegations include holding their arms up above their heads for long periods of time, being told to put pillowcases on as blindfolds as they were led to various places and walking barefoot in a warehouse. Dixon and Derrick saw no purpose to these exercises that would serve the camp overall.

By the third official night, they say it escalated even further, at a house party.

"All of a sudden I just see all of the returning staffers naked," said Dixon. "I was so shocked... when I walked into that room, it felt like everyone was like the guy who assaulted me."

Derrick said she was assaulted as well, but that her complaint wasn't taken as seriously.

"I was sitting on the zen deck and these two girls came up to talk to me," said Derrick. "And I told them what happened, and they waited for a second and (one of them said), 'We don't have to tell anyone if you don't want to.'"

She felt like they were pressuring her to second guess what she experienced.

"I'm really scared of them, you know?" said Derrick. "I'm not even sure what they're capable of."

Both Dixon and Derrick left the 11-week program less than one week in. Derrick tells ABC7 she complained to leadership within the counselor group, and to those running Bruin Woods as a whole, but no one followed up.

"The purpose of this lawsuit is to bring this to the forefront so that now a light has been shed on what is going on," said Carr. "I'm hopeful that as a result of this, the next group of counselors that come through will have a different experience. That the leadership of the camp will be different."

In a statement, UCLA told ABC7:

"UCLA has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual violence and hazing. When we learned of the alleged incidents earlier this year, they were referred to our Title IX office and are being handled according to university policies and procedures. We're not able to comment further on the details of these matters because we want to protect the privacy of those involved. Our top priority is the well-being of our students, staff and families, and we have robust policies in place to review all claims of misconduct."

This statement, Dixon and Derrick say, is the first they've heard from UCLA directly.

"Before coming to Bruin Woods, I saw them as this awesome community of people who really loved each other," said Dixon. "Seeing that's what they did or that's what they had to do to get that community just made me feel really sad, because I thought it was something that it wasn't."

Derrick took a quarter off from UCLA and plans to return in the spring. Dixon still attends classes in person and fears she will run into the person who assaulted her.

ABC7 reached out to the young men listed as defendants in the civil lawsuit but has not yet heard back.

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