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Fraternity system may be re-evaluated, Penn State president says

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Penn State President Eric Barron speaks to reporters in the Pennsylvania state Capitol on Wednesday
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. » Some senior university leaders at Penn State believe their fraternity system needs to be re-evaluated following a police investigation into the Facebook posting of nude photographs of women by a now-suspended fraternity, the university’s president said.

Eric Barron told faculty, staff and students in a statement sent to them on Wednesday night that some leaders believe there is a need for such a review.

He said the university is working with the national leadership of Kappa Delta Rho, which this week suspended its Penn State chapter for a year, 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," Barron wrote. "Some members of the university senior leadership believe it is, and we are considering our options."

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 nude and semi-nude women, some of whom appeared to be asleep or passed out. According to a warrant, the invitation-only page had 144 active members, including students and alumni.

Police said some of the photos showed women in "sexual or embarrassing positions" and some of the women appeared to be aware their pictures were being taken while others did not.

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

Barron said fraternities offer leadership and service opportunities and when their members pursue "noble intentions" good things can happen. But, he said, members who deviate can tarnish the reputations of their fraternities and the university community and can harm others.

Rick Groves, president of the Penn State Interfraternity Council, said Thursday there’s merit to a discussion about ways to strengthen the fraternity system and "reclaim its standing."

"Our community has always been one of continuous improvement, and disturbing events like those at Kappa Delta Rho show the need for improvement now more than ever," Groves said in an email to The Associated Press.

The student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, reported that an email from another Interfraternity Council leader asked members to refrain from comment and to forward such requests to the fraternity organization. Groves said that was an effort to reduce the dissemination of misinformation.

Police 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 comments and posted no-trespassing signs outside the chapter house.

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, maybe even expelling them.

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