Penn State president says fraternity system may need review

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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 12:06 PM
Penn State president says fraternity system may need review

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State's president has told the university community an investigation into the Facebook posting of nude photographs by a now-suspended fraternity could lead to a re-evaluation of the overall fraternity system.

Eric Barron sent a statement late Wednesday night to faculty, staff and students that said some senior university leaders believe there is a need for such a review.

He said the school is working with the national leadership of Kappa Delta Rho, which suspended the Penn State chapter for a year earlier this week, to see if it "will have a presence" on campus and what conditions might be required.

Hazing, excessive drinking and sexual assaults are "issues within fraternal life" that need to be addressed, he said.

"It also brings us to a point where we must ask if a re-evaluation of the fraternity system is required. Some members of the university senior leadership believe it is, and we are considering our options," Barron wrote.

In interviews earlier Wednesday, he had stressed that the focus should be on individual actions rather than blaming entire institutions. More than 4,000 undergraduates at the State College campus belong to 50 fraternity chapters.

"Fraternities do offer leadership and service opportunities and when fraternity members take up their role as citizens with noble intentions, good things can happen," Barron wrote. "But when individual members deviate from the positive goals they can pursue, they not only tarnish the reputation of their brothers, but also the university community. They also may cause a great deal of harm to themselves and others."

The student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, reported Thursday that the school's Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council — which governs 21 sororities — have asked members not to discuss the scandal with reporters. The paper said an email from an Interfraternity Council leader asked members to refrain from comment and to forward the request to the organization.

Police in State College, home to Penn State's main campus, are investigating allegations the fraternity operated a private Facebook page on which members shared frat house pictures of naked and semi-nude women. According to a warrant, the invitation-only page had 144 active members, including students and alumni.

Police said some of the photos they had seen showed women in "sexual or embarrassing positions." While some of the women photographed appeared to be aware their pictures were being taken, others did not, police said in court documents.

Barron said the university is working with police to determine the number of offenders and victims and will hold those responsible accountable for what they did.

"This is the kind of behavior that can get someone expelled," he told the AP on Wednesday.

Police have said they have identified at least two photographs that could lead to criminal charges but the investigation is continuing. The fraternity's members and leaders in State College have not made any public comment about the matter, and on Wednesday they posted no-trespassing signs outside the chapter house.