On March 16, information surfaced about the existence of a private Facebook group containing, in the words of Penn State President Eric J. Barron, “highly inappropriate and disturbing pictures” depicting women in states of partial or total nudity–some of whom appear to be asleep or passed out–and in compromising situations.
The private group, made up of 144 current and alumni members affiliated with the Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) fraternity, also contained details of drug-dealing activities. Penn State’s Inter-fraternity Council (IFC) has placed KDR on a one-year suspension while University and State officials investigate.
The group was allegedly reported by a woman who, while visiting a KDR fraternity brother, observed nude photos of herself on his Facebook, which he had inadvertently left logged in. She reported this to police in January. Barron released a statement several days after the news of the group became public.
In addition to condemning the actions of the 144 students as “appalling, offensive, and inconsistent with our community’s values,” in his statement, the university president also questioned if a reevaluation of the fraternity system’s role at that university is necessary. Barron mentions the negative aspects of fraternal life, such as “hazing, excessive drinking, and sexual assault” as reason for this reevaluation, and he hints that the University’s senior leadership may seek to eliminate social Greek life organization from the school altogether.
Barron closed his statement by saying that the University is seeking to “eradicate behavior that is inconsistent with Penn State’s values.
This is not the first fraternity scandal to make headlines lately. Recently, fraternities at schools across the country have been contributing an unsettling tred of racism, sexual assault, hazing, and unbecoming conduct.
These incidents include the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma performing racist chants on a bus, members of multiple University of Michigan fraternities and sororities causing $75,000 worth of damage at a ski resort in Michigan, and Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Texas Tech University displaying a sign reading “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” at one of their parties.
A week after the private Facebook group was revealed, more than 100 Penn State students gathered in front of the University Park campus’ administration building in protest of the sanctions on the fraternity. They deemed the punishment too lax and impelled the university to take stronger actions against the purported offenders. The protesters’ demands included placing KDR members associated with the private Facebook group on interim suspensions and completely severing ties with the fraternity.
State College Police Lieutenant Keith Robb says that no arrests have been made yet due to the fact that “the accounts on Facebook were sanitized, wiped clean,” which has prevented the identification of any suspects. According to police any suspects found guilty of posing the pictures to the private Facebook group could face charges of harassment and/or invasion of privacy. Both are misdemeanor offenses.
Ben Garfinkel is a writer for The Insider