Brown announces sanctions against two fraternities

 By News Staff

Brown University announced through a letter to its campus community that it has imposed sanctions on two fraternities found for creating unsafe environments at unregistered parties last fall.

In the letter written by Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, the university imposed sanction on the Sigma Chi and Phi Kappa Psi fraternities.

The letter reads:

Dear Member of the Brown Community:

This year, in keeping with new federal guidelines for college campuses and in support of the aims of Brown’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, we have increased communication and transparency regarding incidents of sexual misconduct. When privacy and confidentiality guidelines permit, we are providing information about incidents and the University response. We are writing now with an update about two incidents from fall 2014 and about plans to review our policies pertaining to social events and alcohol service.

The two incidents described in this letter involve unregistered parties hosted by fraternities. In both cases, no individual member of either fraternity was charged with sexual misconduct. These student organizations were found responsible for creating an environment that facilitated sexual misconduct through improperly monitored spaces and inadequate safeguards surrounding the service of alcohol.

The measures we are taking this spring reflect our interest in preventing sexual assault by addressing the campus climate at Brown. All Brown community members need to be involved in preventing sexual violence, and all student organizations are expected to ensure that adequate security measures are in place to promote safe events and activities. We recognize that, in the instances discussed in this letter, not all students within the organizations were individually responsible for the events that occurred. It is imperative, however, that all students take full responsibility for the behaviors of their organizations. The sanctions that have been imposed in these cases are emblematic of a growing recognition that the status quo of social events that place students at risk is simply not acceptable.

Student Organization Incidents from Fall 2014

On October 3, 2014, Sigma Chi, a fraternity in Olney House, hosted an unregistered party in the basement of their residence. The Department of Public Safety responded and broke up the party. One student reported an incident of non-consensual contact of a sexual nature that occurred as students were exiting the crowded basement. The complainant was not able to identify the specific individual who was responsible for touching her.

The fraternity had a student organization hearing on October 31 related to charges of the unauthorized party, serving alcohol to minors, and creating an unsafe environment that resulted in an incident of non-consensual sexual contact. As a result, the fraternity was sanctioned with probation and suspension of social and University privileges until fall 2016. During their sanction, Sigma Chi cannot sponsor any social events and has lost access to their chapter room, lounge, library, and basement. In addition, the fraternity is ineligible to conduct recruitment, rush, or initiation processes. Fraternity members are responsible for participating in educational programs on alcohol, sexual assault, and maintaining a safe environment. This decision was upheld following an appeal. The national chapter of this fraternity has been notified of the offenses.

On October 17, 2014, Phi Kappa Psi, a fraternity in Sears House, held an unregistered party during which two students reported receiving an alcoholic drink that contained a date rape drug. The fraternity was charged with creating an environment that facilitated inappropriate, potentially dangerous, and possibly criminal behavior by hosting a party where guests were served a drink that contained a date rape drug. One student reported an incident of non-consensual sexual contact that did not happen within the fraternity’s facility nor did it involve a member of the fraternity, but its occurrence was a result of the student’s incapacitation.

A student organization hearing for Phi Kappa Psi was held on December 5, 2014. The fraternity was found responsible for the following violations: actions that can result in harm; illegal possession or use of drugs; illegal provision, sale, or possession with intent to sell/provide drugs; and violation of operational rules. Since the organization was monitoring and controlling beverage service, it was found responsible for the provision of a drink that contained gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). The conduct board, consisting of a faculty member, student, and an administrator, sanctioned the organization with loss of University recognition for four years, including loss of housing. This decision was upheld following an appeal. After the appeal was concluded, some questions were raised regarding the validity of one laboratory test that was part of the evidence that indicated students had been given GHB. It will be decided, after a thorough and final review of the physical evidence, whether the findings and sanctions against Phi Kappa Psi should be modified.

Because the fraternity was found responsible for several serious violations, based on evidence that is not in dispute, and which by themselves warrant strong sanctions, and because of the fraternity’s history of disciplinary infractions involving unauthorized events and alcohol violations, the sanctions recommended by the Student Conduct Board will be put into effect immediately. The national chapter of this fraternity has been notified of the offenses.

Plans for Review of Campus Policies

In conjunction with our on-going and intensified efforts to prevent and address sexual assault at Brown, this spring the Division of Campus Life and Student Services will conduct a comprehensive review of alcohol policy and social event regulations to promote a safer environment on campus. Given Greek Council’s interest in preventing sexual assault, we look forward to partnering with them and with other students, faculty, and staff in reviewing our policies governing campus events.

While the review is underway this spring, no events with alcohol can be held in any Greek or program houses. Student organizations in good standing can host events in which alcohol is served to students aged 21 and over, in approved campus spaces. All such events must be registered with the Student Activities Office. We are prohibiting parties with alcohol service in residential areas. Approved events will have appropriate security and safety measures in place.

We are encouraged that as a result of increased attention, awareness, and resources, more students are reporting incidents of sexual misconduct when they occur. At the same time, we expect individuals and organizations to be vigilant in their efforts to prevent and to intervene in harmful situations. The University offers a range of programs, including bystander intervention workshops, which can be scheduled by contacting the Office of Health Promotion. Students who wish to report an incident or are seeking support and counseling should visit the Health Promotion web page for available resources.


Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy
Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services