Stanford University is suspending the on-campus housing privileges of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity for two years after an investigation found the fraternity's members infringed upon the rights of female students "in a discriminatory manner," according to a university statement.
An investigation conducted by outside counsel, who interviewed more than 30 people, found that an event hosted by the fraternity last spring, and the fraternity's "insufficient response to concerns about the event, created a hostile environment for female students in violation of the university's sexual harassment policy."
According to the university, investigators found that members of a Stanford sorority attending an event at SAE in May 2014 were "subjected to highly offensive material" that contained graphic sexual content and offensive comments regarding domestic physical abuse of women. The investigation also found that house leadership missed multiple opportunities to prevent, stop or respond to the harassment, despite the fact that concerns were raised in advance of a similar SAE event that took place the previous year, the university said.
These actions all took place before a new university policy went into effect this fall that revokes a Greek organization's eligibility for on-campus housing indefinitely following one major of three minor violations of university policy or law.
"Sigma Alpha Epsilon will continue to be a recognized fraternity at Stanford," the university statement reads. "But the privilege and responsibility of having a dedicated on-campus house, which is a facility owned by the university, is being suspended. This action is not a reflection on any individual in the house, as many of the members are positive contributors to the Stanford community. But it is a necessary step given continuing concerns about behaviors in the house as a whole."
In 2009, following an investigation of SAE, social restrictions were placed on the fraternity and its members went through training relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault and responsible alcohol use, the investigation noted.
Five years later, in the 2013-14 school year, the university said it became aware of concerns about potential instances of drugged drinks and other misconduct involving women at SAE.
"The concerns could not be substantiated, as the women involved and other witnesses either were unwilling to participate in an investigation or were unable to identify the individuals involved," the university said. "While these reports have not been substantiated, their number and nature add to the university's concern for ensuring the safety of Stanford students."
The fraternity has the opportunity to appeal the housing suspension to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. The SAE president at the time told the Weekly Monday that his fraternity intends to do so.
Lisa Lapin, associate vice president
of university communications, told the Weekly Thursday that there is usually a limited time frame for issuing an appeal, but that in SAE's case, it has been "somewhat extended" due to the timing with winter break.
If the suspension is upheld, Stanford will work with members of the fraternity to identify alternate housing for them effective spring quarter, which starts in March. Winter quarter, which begins in January, would be spent as a "transitional period" during which the fraternity would be prohibited from hosting social events involving alcohol or non-member guests.
"The leadership of SAE has indicated that the fraternity has begun serious and constructive dialogue this fall with its members and with campus sororities around fostering a climate that is respectful to women," Stanford said. "The university looks forward to working with the leadership and members of SAE to achieve that goal."
If suspended, SAE can reapply for on-campus housing for the 2017-18 academic year, subject to the completion of a series of educational and other remedial activities, the university said.
The most recent Stanford fraternity to be handed a similar suspension was Kappa Sigma, which the university initially slapped with a one-year housing suspension in 2011 after the fraternity was first placed on provisional alcohol and party suspension and then violated that suspension by hosting an unregistered event during New Student Orientation. Kappa Sigma also appealed the suspension, but Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman upheld the decision. He wrote in an April 2011 letter to the fraternity that "in order to overturn the process which included a presentation to a Review Panel, there would need to be clear demonstration of unfairness or bias, or the discovery of new fact."
Kappa Sigma was reinstated into its house just nine months later after working to meet various criteria demanded by Residential Education, the Stanford Daily reported, though Boardman noted in his April 2011 letter that "current standard practice in higher education for similar situations is a four-year ban from housing."