University, fraternities investigate sexual assaults: Assaults reported at Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi

On Saturday Sept. 15 at approximately 1:24 a.m., MSU police responded to a report of sexual intercourse without consent which allegedly occurred at Sigma Chi fraternity. According to a university-issued timely warning, the alleged victim reported being sexually assaulted by two unnamed males after alcohol had been consumed at a party.

On the same morning, MSU police also received a report of sexual intercourse without consent at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house two days prior on Sept. 13. The alleged victim reported she suspected having been drugged and sexually assaulted after partying with a male she was familiar with.

Though the alleged incidents both happened at fraternity houses, MSU Police Chief Robert Putzke believes they are not related. Neither the suspects nor circumstances appear to have anything in common, he explained.

The two parties were both what the Interfraternity Council (IFC) calls “spontaneous events.” Typically, a fraternity is required to register their events ahead of time with MSUPD, the Dean of Students and the IFC. However, in these less-planned events, the hosting fraternity must only call MSUPD sometime before the event begins, IFC Sergeant at Arms Josh Carroccia explained. With spontaneous events, MSUPD will perform “a compliance check” between 11 p.m. and midnight. While exact attendance numbers for these events are unknown, there were fewer than 100 people at each of the parties.

Fraternity parties are overseen by “safety and risk management,” a rather nebulous term that describes a team of individuals that enforces IFC regulations and MSU policy as well as state and local laws. According to Carroccia, “there should have been three [overseers]” at the event.

In both of this weekend’s alleged cases, the victims have chosen to proceed with criminal investigations. Though university police have identified suspects in both cases, Putzke said, he believes that the investigation will take time to complete. “There’s an order we have to go through in conducting these investigations,” he explained. ”We’re very thorough in what we do.”

According to Putzke, a total of six cases of sexual intercourse without consent have been reported at MSU in 2013. If convicted, perpetrators of sexual intercourse without consent — a felony — can face 20 to 100 years in prison.

University response

The university community was alerted to the instances Monday by a university-issued timely warning. The warning, which included brief details about the incidents as well as tips from the police department on staying safe, was issued by police.

According to Dean of Students Matt Caires, both involved fraternities were issued interim suspension notices on Monday. During the suspension, the fraternities will be unable to participate in university events, Caires said. This includes tailgating at football games, Wednesday’s involvement fair and, should the investigations last that long, MSU Homecoming on Oct. 5. Caires explained that beyond a temporary suspension, the university has the option of revoking a fraternity’s charter.

[pullquote align=”right”]

“The university will not stand for sexual assault anywhere in our academic community, fraternities or beyond. We will bring to bear all available university resources to protect our students, and bring individuals who commit sexual violence to justice.” – Dean of Students Matt Caires [/pullquote]

Both Putzke and Caires stressed the fraternities have been fully cooperating and are expected to continue in the investigations to come.

Fraternities react

According to Erik Enselman, president of  MSU’s chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, the fraternity is conducting an investigation of their own. “The chapter has placed the alleged member on administrative suspension pending the outcome of this investigation,” Enselman said.

In all, there are four overlapping investigations into the alleged events — by MSUPD, the dean of students, the IFC and the two fraternities involved. According to IFC President Thomas Wright, the purpose of this is “making sure that it is thorough; making sure that it is absolutely complete and that no questions go unanswered.”

In his address at the biannual all-fraternity meeting on Wednesday Sept. 18, Wright said actions have been taken by both fraternities and all members allegedly involved have been suspended.

At the meeting, 158 fraternity members convened for a discussion on the weekend’s events and the university’s response to those events. Joe Schumacher, prevention and education coordinator at the MSU VOICE Center opened the evening by explaining the VOICE Center’s “Not in our House” campaign to address sexual assault on MSU’s campus, and by inviting the fraternity members to participate. Caires, too, urged the audience to take steps to increase awareness as debate on “the merits of our fraternity programs” continues.

Representing MSU administration, Caires said, “The university will not stand for sexual assault anywhere in our academic community, in fraternities or beyond.” He continued, “We will bring to bear all available university resources to protect our students, and bring individuals who commit sexual violence to justice.”

[pullquote align=”right”]There’s an order we have to go through in conducting these investigations. We’re very thorough in what we do.” MSU Police Chief Robert Putzke[/pullquote]

A topic that must not go unexplored in these events, Caires said, is the alcohol culture ingrained both in Greek and university life. “We’ll never truly change the alcohol culture in fraternities or anywhere else until we get students to show some leadership,” Caires said. Until the university does so, he said, “I don’t think we’ll ever make a difference.”