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home : city news : city news March 30, 2017

2/22/2017 3:35:00 PM
Allegations of Sexual Assault Trigger Temporary Closing of Fraternity
By Mary Helt Gavin


Allegations that four female party-goers were drugged and two sexually assaulted at a January party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Northwestern University caused the national headquarters to issue a “cease and desist” order of chapter operations.

As of press time, however, no charges had been filed, and Alan Cubbage, Vice President of University Relations, told the RoundTable, “The reports received were anonymous. At this time, no report has been filed with Northwestern University Police by any of the interested parties.” He said the University is continuing to investigate the allegations. These initially included another allegation of a sexual assault at a different, but unnamed, fraternity.

Statements from Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for Student Affairs, have been posted on the website https://news.northwestern.edu/stories. A post on Feb. 6 says, “On Feb. 2, 2017, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office received a report that on Jan. 21, 2017, four female students attending an event at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house in Evanston were possibly given a date-rape drug. The report alleges that two of the students believe they were also sexually assaulted. In addition, on Feb. 3, 2017, the University received an anonymous report alleging that on Feb. 2, 2017, a female student was sexually assaulted, possibly involving use of a date-rape drug, after attending an event at another fraternity house. The report is unclear as to where the assault may have occurred.”

The following day, Ms. Telles-Irvin posted, “Last night, we made an announcement concerning anonymous reports of sexual assault involving the use of date-rape drugs in two of our fraternities. Northwestern University condemns any such conduct in the strongest possible terms and expeditiously is investigating these charges. They go against Northwestern values and constitute grossly unacceptable behavior. The University is fully prepared to take appropriate action promptly.” Both statements said the University's Sexual Harassment Prevention Office is conducting an inquiry into these reports and urged anyone with knowledge of these alleged incidents to contact the Title IX Coordinator or the Northwestern University Police.

On Feb. 7, the national headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, 1856 Sheridan Rd., posted a statement on the news page of its website, http//www.sae.net, that read in part: “The Sigma Alpha Epsilon headquarters has placed its chapter at Northwestern University under a cease-and-desist order, which means all chapter operations must halt until further notice. The sanction comes as part of our investigations into separate sexual-assault and alcohol violations regarding the group. In addition, we continue to work with university administrators and chapter leaders to gain more information on the incident, and our staff member specifically assigned to Title IX matters is working with our investigative team. … Any form of assault or sexual misconduct by anyone, brother or not, college man or not, is completely unacceptable, and we do not tolerate actions that are inconsistent with our mission. … Our Northwestern chapter of SAE is appalled and deeply concerned by the recent allegations of drug abuse and sexual assault. We take these allegations very seriously and are fully cooperating with the university’s investigation as well as the investigation spearheaded by our national headquarters. We are committed to ensuring that Northwestern remains a safe haven for everyone on this campus.”

Suspension of fraternity activities means that the fraternity members cannot hold chapter meetings or conduct fraternity business. The members can remain living in the house, though.

On Feb. 10, in a march called “Stand with Survivors: March to Sheridan,” hundreds of students marched from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter house on campus to the fraternity’s national headquarters, demanding that the local chapter be removed.

Commander Joseph Dugan of the Evanston Police Department told the RoundTable the Northwestern Police Department “has full Police powers and is a professional organization. They handle their own investigations. … We do handle all death investigations on or off campus and will assist in any investigation if they make a request. … As far as the SAE, we are not involved.  They do keep us in the loop though.”







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