HARRISBURG, Pa. — A police investigation of a secret Facebook page with photos of nude and semi-nude women, some of whom appeared to be sleeping or passed out, has prompted a wide review of the role fraternities and sororities play at Penn State, the university’s president announced Monday.
Penn State president Eric Barron released a statement that said he was setting up a task force to define the purposes of fraternities and sororities, look into their racial and ethnic diversity, assess sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse and determine whether there is proper accountability for misbehavior.
Barron said the university’s fraternities and sororities have long played an important role on campus but sexual misconduct, hazing and alcohol abuse are too common and require attention.
“I am determined to conduct a focused examination of fraternity and sorority life in a manner that supports the best of Greek life, while promising real and lasting change,” Barron wrote. “The imperative to improve our system is clear and convincing.”
The announcement came a week after a search warrant became public in a police investigation of the Facebook page tied to the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho. That fraternity has been suspended for a year and must reorganize for what its national office has described as “the most serious misconduct.” Its members have not commented publicly on the matter.
On Friday, about 100 people demonstrated outside the university’s administration building, urging administrators to take action against those involved. A smaller protest occurred at Old Main on Monday.
Barron said investigations by local police and the university’s Office of Student Conduct remain in the works.
“Patience is required to allow these investigations to continue unimpeded so that we can achieve (a) level of justice that fully matches the outcomes of the investigations,” Barron wrote.
He said the task force, which he will name next week, will be led by Damon Sims, the university’s vice president for student affairs, and will include fraternity and sorority leaders, alumni, prevention experts, trustees and others.
The president of the Penn State Interfraternity Council, Rick Groves, said in an email that a meeting Sunday night aimed to start discussions about how to move forward.
“There was resounding agreement that, despite the actions of Kappa Delta Rho being unacceptable and unrepresentative of the whole, our entire community must take ownership of these issues,” he wrote.
Groves said the university’s fraternities “will not stand for such behavior taking refuge in our organizations, and together we must work to identify and exterminate it.”
Police learned of the secret Facebook page in January, when a former member of the fraternity informed them it had been used to share photos of unsuspecting victims, drug sales and hazing, according to the search warrant. Police said the page had 144 active members including current and former students.