By Gary Robertson
RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - A small Virginia state university has put a proposal to launch fraternities and sororities on hold, citing the uproar at the University of Virginia over an alleged gang rape in a fraternity house.
Richard Hurley, president of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said the school was taking steps to foster a climate where sexual assault and misconduct were not tolerated.
"While I recognize that these organizations can have many positive attributes to offer for some students, I believe that now is not the time for us to move forward on any proposal to formally establish a Greek system at Mary Washington,” Hurley said in an email to the university community on Monday.
Mary Washington has about 4,000 undergraduates. It was the women’s college of the University of Virginia before it became a separate coeducational institution in 1972.
The University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, has been in turmoil since a November article in Rolling Stone magazine alleged a female student was gang raped at the school's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in 2012.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has appointed a special counsel to investigate how the school handled the issue. Charlottesville police have also begun investigating the case.
The University of Virginia has suspended all activities at fraternities and sororities until Jan. 9. Phi Kappa Psi has surrendered its fraternity agreement with the university.
In his email, Hurley said Mary Washington's steps to fight sexual assault included ensuring that appropriate law enforcement measures are taken.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Virginia legislature have called for handling sexual assaults as crimes, rather than honor offenses as some institutions have done.
(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)