The New York Times – Penn State, Finding Harassment and Hazing, Suspends Recognition of a Fraternity
May 27, 2015
Pennsylvania State University has withdrawn recognition of a fraternity chapter whose members used a secret Facebook page to post images of drugs, under-age drinking, hazing and nude, unconscious women.
The punishment of the Kappa Delta Rho chapter on the University Park campus, where more than half of the school’s undergraduates take courses, will last for three years.
Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs at Penn State, said late Tuesday that officials had decided on the punishment after an investigation by the university found “a persistent series of deeply troubling activities within the fraternity,” including sexual harassment of several women, hazing that included boxing matches, and the sale and use of drugs.
Not all of the chapter’s members were equally culpable, Mr. Sims said, and many were only observers. “Even so,” he said, “the sum of the organizational misbehaviors is far more than the university can tolerate from a student organization that seeks its imprimatur.”
Officials learned of the Facebook page in January when a former fraternity member went to the police to report possible misconduct. Penn State said its investigation had found that members hazed pledges, forcing them to run errands and clean the fraternity house. Pledges were also forced to hold their bodies in a rigid horizontal position using only their arms in a move called planking, but with a painful twist — bottle caps were placed underneath their elbows.
In addition, pledges were required to make stories with pornographic images and “a sex position of the day.” Members regularly posted embarrassing photographs of women in “extremely compromising” positions and used demeaning language to describe them, the university said.
Two women, both students, were subjected to persistent harassment. Officials said they were degraded through multiple postings on the organization’s private website over an extended period. “The investigative report makes clear that some members of the K.D.R. chapter promoted a culture of harassing behavior and degradation of women,” Mr. Sims said.
Mr. Sims announced the university’s decision in a letter to the vice presidents of the Interfraternity Council, a body that governs Greek-letter organizations at Penn State but is separate from the university.
The council recommended that Kappa Delta Rho be allowed to keep its designation as a campus organization, so long as it agreed to measures to “change the culture” of the fraternity. Those measures included a comprehensive education program for new members, and participation in sensitivity training on sexual assaults and bystander intervention training.
University officials typically defer to the council on matters related to recognition, but felt compelled to make a stronger response in this case. “We cannot both sustain recognition for this group, even if various stipulations are imposed in exchange for that allowance, and still make the case that such behaviors fall well short of our community’s expectations,” Mr. Sims said.
The decision was not made lightly, he said. The university’s action in this case “should not be seen as a retreat” from its commitment to student involvement in institutional decisions, he added.
The national executive director of Kappa Delta Rho, Joseph Rosenberg, said that the fraternity had reviewed the report and that any members involved could face expulsion.
He noted that the report did not accuse any fraternity members of sexual assault, and said, “We respect the university’s decision and look forward to working with the university.”
The fraternity has made several changes, including increasing education for members on issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and alcohol and drug abuse. Mr. Rosenberg said it had also arranged to join a consortium of organizations that maintain a hotline for reporting hazing.
The fraternity “is an organization characterized by devotion to respect for others,” he said. “As our Penn State chapter proceeds as a part of the university community, we will continue to require that each of our members honors that principle in all respects at all times.”
The fraternity can ask Penn State to recolonize the chapter after three years, a university spokeswoman said, according to The Associated Press. That would prompt a review, and the university could set conditions on restarting it, she said.
Click here to link to the original article or Click here to download .pdf