North Dakota frat probed in alleged assault, anti-gay taunts

AP News
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Posted: Sep 03, 2015 9:25 PM

A gay man believes his outfit of metallic red shorts and a tank top was what triggered what he said was an assault and homophobic taunting during a weekend incident at a University of North Dakota fraternity house that police are investigating.

Haakon Gisvold, 18, said Thursday he was called anti-gay slurs, choked and stripped down Sunday while attending a party at the Lambda Chi Alpha house in Grand Forks. The fraternity chapter has been placed on limited operations as the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks police departments investigate.

Gisvold said he attended the party with a friend and spent at least an hour there before a member of the fraternity asked him to leave because of what he was wearing.

"I said 'Look at these girls. They're wearing short clothes, too. I don't see what the big deal is,'" said Gisvold, adding that he then heard homophobic slurs.

He said a man pushed him to the ground and they fought, then four other men confronted him, took his clothes off and choked him. Someone called police and the crowd scattered, including Gisvold, who said he hid behind a bush in his underwear until a Good Samaritan gave him clothes.

Gisvold said his father notified police and investigators contacted him. The University of North Dakota Police Department declined to provide details of the incident to the AP, citing its ongoing investigation.

Lambda Chi Alpha's national headquarters in Indianapolis restricted UND's Epsilon-Zeta chapter from all formal activities on Wednesday.

"We take this alleged incident extremely seriously, and although there isn't any sufficient information to support the claims, we are working in partnership with the university and local law enforcement to ensure an immediate and thorough investigation is completed," Nick Zuniga, the national fraternity's director of chapter services, said in a statement.

Gisvold said alcohol was available at the party and he had two caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

School President Robert Kelley sent a letter to University of North Dakota students on Wednesday, saying that although the school didn't know all of the details, he was concerned by the report. He said the incident was even more disconcerting given that it followed the city's recent gay pride celebration.

"I want to be very clear: Violent behavior of this nature is not tolerated at UND," Kelley said. "Any student or student organization found to have violated the UND Code of Student Life will be subject to disciplinary action."

Student Body President Matt Kopp said in a statement that such incidents do not reflect the values of the school's fraternities and sororities.

"It is imperative that we create a safe environment for all within our campus community," Kopp said.

Zuniga said Lambda Chi Alpha is an inclusive organization that welcomes young men of any ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or nationality. He said the fraternity takes pride and celebrates diversity with a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or intolerance of members or guests.

Zuniga said neither the UND chapter nor the fraternity's headquarters will comment further until the investigation is completed.

Gisvold said he doesn't know whether the men he said attacked him are members of the fraternity, but he doesn't want anyone kicked out of school or the fraternity shut down.

"I just want those guys to learn from this," Gisvold said. "They could go to jail, sure, but they could go to jail and then come out with the same mindset that they don't like homosexuals."

He said he'd rather they see how such things affect people. "It really does affect the homosexual community," he said, "because it scares people from going out in the street and being able to be themselves 100 percent."

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