Montana State cracks down on fraternity after rape report

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 09, 2013 11:23 PM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Montana State University has ordered members of an off-campus fraternity to attend classes on sexual assault prevention and imposed a ban on hard liquor there after a female student reported being raped at a frat house party where alcohol was served.

Announcing the sanctions on Monday against the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, officials at the Bozeman-based school said they wanted to act swiftly in light of a federal probe last year into complaints that the University of Montana in Missoula had mishandled rape reports.

Pi Kappa Alpha is one of two fraternities near the Bozeman campus at the center of investigations stemming from allegations by two female students that they were sexually assaulted in separate incidents over one weekend in September.

Montana State immediately placed Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi fraternities under suspension as it opened inquiries into the two report, and the school's findings were turned over to a state prosecutor, said Matt Caires, the dean of students.

While the state's attorney will decide whether to bring criminal charges, the university has cited Pi Kappa Alpha for violations of the school's alcohol and student-conduct codes, Caires said.

The university has not said what further disciplinary action, if any, it might take against Sigma Chi.

The University of Montana reached an agreement in May with the U.S. Justice and Education Departments to reform its procedures for responding to rape allegations.

The settlement followed a yearlong federal investigation into complaints the Missoula campus had failed to aggressively pursue at least 11 sexual assault reports by students, three of them leveled against members of the school football team.

One of those football players was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year after pleading guilty to raping a woman at his residence in 2010.

"We watched the University of Montana's struggles, and the lesson that came away from that was we needed to respond quickly and thoroughly when rape allegations come forward," Caires said.

As part of the sanctions unveiled on Monday, Pi Kappa Alpha is prohibited from serving hard liquor at future gatherings, though beer and wine will be allowed.

However, the fraternity is required to designate several of its members to stay sober on those occasions to "ensure all intoxicated guests are escorted home and not taken advantage of, sexually or otherwise," according to an agreement reached with the university.

"We want our fraternity to be safe and our members to be responsible," Pi Kappa Alpha president Jack Murrey said in a prepared statement.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)