A University of Vermont fraternity has been suspended while school officials, national organization leaders and police investigate allegations that a survey was circulated among members asking them who they would like to rape.
Members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter would not discuss the allegations Wednesday.
A student reported the questionnaire to school officials over the weekend, school officials said, leading both the university and the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization to suspend the chapter temporarily. The school is investigating how widely the survey was circulated, and the campus police department is trying to determine if any crimes have been committed.
The survey question was "incredibly offensive and inappropriate," said Annie Stevens, the university's associate vice president for student and campus life.
University officials contacted the national fraternity, which said Wednesday that it has instructed the chapter to cease all operation, pending further investigation.
"Sigma Phi Epsilon and its leadership programs are built on the concept of respect for both self and others. Any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated," it said. A national representative arrived in Burlington on Tuesday and was interviewing chapter members as part of an internal investigation, said Brian Warren, executive director.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has over 15,000 undergraduates in 240 chapters, making it one of the largest fraternities in the country. Its mission is "building balanced men" by having members embrace the principles of virtue, diligence, brotherly love and committing to the practice of sound mind and sound body, according to the fraternity's website.
A Burlington feminist organization named FED UP Vermont and other groups posted an online petition seeking to shut down the fraternity chapter. By Wednesday afternoon, it had more than 1,500 signatures. Organizers planned a news conference to speak out against "rape culture and sexism" Thursday afternoon on the steps of the university library.
"An institution that discusses who it wants to rape has no place at UVM or in the Burlington community," the group said.