Report of rape puts focus on Purdue policies for parties

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — The elaborate regulations governing alcohol consumption at parties hosted by Purdue University's fraternities fill five single-spaced pages of instructions, specifying multiple safeguards to try to ensure responsible drinking.

There are requirements to keep alcohol out of the hands of students younger than the legal drinking age of 21. There are wristbands and checkpoints and "sober monitors" to enforce the rules.

But the rules apply only to official "registered" social events at fraternities (sororities are officially "dry"). Parties that are "unregistered" — events not recognized by the university or national chapter — are forbidden.

Yet it was just such an unregistered event that is alleged to have taken place at the Acacia fraternity house on Jan. 18, when a young woman visiting from another college was allegedly raped by a fraternity member.

Behind the closed doors of Purdue's fraternities, monitoring and enforcement of alcohol rules is left to fraternities themselves in a system of self-policing. Despite growing national scrutiny focused on incidents of alcohol misuse and sexual assaults on college campuses, Purdue officials say they are content to allow fraternities to continue monitoring themselves.

"We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that fraternities, sororities and cooperative housing — which currently number 92 chapters on our campus — have been a part of Purdue campus life for well over 100 years and provide members with valuable opportunities for scholarship and leadership," Beth McCuskey, interim vice provost for student life, said in a statement in response to questions from the Journal & Courier ( ). "A critical component of scholarship and leadership is the opportunity — and responsibility — of self-governance."

University officials say they don't institute random spot checks of fraternities to try to catch unregistered events.

Purdue police Chief John Cox said the department treats parties at fraternities and sororities the same as any other event, responding when there's a complaint or reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.

"We don't do anything differently investigating these issues whether it's a traffic stop, complaint on a particular Greek organization or call from an RA in a residence hall. ... We also investigate complaints, including loud noise, fights or other disturbances called in by citizens," he said in an email. "If we run across alcohol violations during those interactions, we deal with them appropriately according to state law."

The issue of fraternity self-policing was highlighted last month, when an Iowa college student reported being raped after an unregistered party at the Acacia fraternity house, where her brother, whom she was visiting, is a member. The report was compounded by allegations by the Purdue University Police Department that underage drinking and illicit drug use inside the fraternity preceded the alleged rape.

Acacia member James Rendon, 20, of Fishers was arrested on preliminary charges of rape and possession of paraphernalia. According to a probable cause affidavit, he allegedly told police he was drunk and didn't recall having sex with the alleged victim.

Rendon and the local Acacia chapter were suspended from engaging in university functions Jan. 19, pending the completion of the investigation. The Acacia International Fraternity Headquarters issued a statement soon after, saying "the alleged actions of this individual do not reflect a problem with this chapter."

Acacia is among 41 Purdue fraternity chapters with membership in the Interfraternity Council, a student group that oversees enforcement of all registered social functions.

IFC President Matt Gebbie, a senior, said his organization aims to promote safety among its members. To that end, the IFC enforces strict regulations imposed on all social functions held by member chapters, he said, noting that no chapter is permitted to furnish alcohol for such gatherings.

Instead, each person who wishes to drink must bring his or her own alcohol — no more than six 12-ounce bottles of beer or four wine coolers — and hand the drinks over to sober hosts for safekeeping. Individuals wear wristbands identifying who's permitted to retrieve which drinks, Gebbie explained.

A contingent of students known as RISE — Representatives of Interfraternal Social Education — visits each registered party to check for compliance. If they find violations or deem an event to be out of control, Gebbie said, RISE will contact IFC and the fraternity chapter president would be tasked with shutting the event down.

When IFC learns of unregistered social functions, it refers cases to a panel that can dole out punishments, Gebbie said.

"It will be sent to our judicial board, and we will adjudicate it," he said.

Gebbie said he was unaware of how many such cases the judicial board has heard, or the results.

According to a joint party management policy between the IFC and the Panhellenic Association, which governs most campus sororities, prior to a registered event, fraternities and sororities must submit a registration form and a guest list. Open parties — the kind at which nonmembers are granted unrestricted access without needing an explicit invitation — are forbidden if alcohol is present, the policy states.

While Purdue was quick to act in the Acacia incident, its "ask-questions-later" policy doesn't sit well with some, including Marybeth Seitz-Brown, a spokeswoman for New York-based Students Active for Ending Rape who works with students to reform collegiate sexual assault policies.

"Just because a fraternity hasn't registered a party doesn't mean that some of their parties didn't happen," she said. "Ultimately, the best way to prevent assault is to make sure there's a culture at the university that absolutely condemns sexual violence," she said.

Alyssa Rollock, Purdue's vice president of ethics and compliance, said that culture already exists at the university and among its student organizations.

"Harassment in the education environment or workplace — and particularly sexual violence — is unacceptable conduct and won't be tolerated at Purdue," she said in an email. "We have strong policies and practices to ensure it is not. No system is ever perfect, but we recently completed a review of our procedures and practices to ensure we're doing all we can to promote a safe and positive learning environment on our campus that's free from all forms of harassment."

But fraternities can sometimes be breeding grounds for the same behavior Purdue prohibits. Fraternity members are more likely to commit rapes and believe women "pretend" to not want sex compared to non-fraternity men, according a 2007 study published in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Journal. A 2009 study in the same journal found fraternity members drank more heavily, more frequently and have more alcohol-related problems than fellow students.

"I think you see a lot of fraternities are built around a notion of toxic masculinity in which women are seen as objects and violence against them is normal and violence against people of all genders, as well," Seitz-Brown said. "I do think it is an issue that often uniquely affects Greek communities and Greek life, and that's something hopefully members of this organization are going work to become more proactive toward a consent culture."

Purdue's annual security report states that 13 sexual assaults were reported on or around campus in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

Data suggest occurrences of sexual assault rank below average compared to other Big Ten universities. A comprehensive analysis by the Journal & Courier of security records at all Big Ten universities found Purdue ranked toward the bottom, with just 1.68 forcible sex crimes reported per 10,000 students from 2011-13. Penn State ranked highest, at 8.65.

"These are very, very rare for Purdue," President Mitch Daniels told the University Senate. "This is statistically an extremely safe campus, so therefore one of the safest places anywhere."

Last year, two rapes and six sexual assaults were reported to PUPD. One of the assaults reportedly occurred Nov. 1 inside the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity house, according to police records.

The incident involved an overnight guest, but unlike the alleged rape inside Acacia's house, it was a fraternity member who was allegedly victimized inside the Alpha Chi Rho house.? He told police he awoke to find 19-year-old Corey Harter touching and taking pictures of his genitals, according to court documents.

When interviewed by police, Harter admitted that he'd been drinking that night. He was arrested on preliminary charges of sexual battery, voyeurism and illegal consumption of alcohol, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The only other suspension on record for the Acacia chapter spanned from 1990-91, but a reason for the university's action isn't listed.

Jeffery Stefancic, associate dean of students, said the university is investigating allegations of an unregistered party with underage drinking and illegal drugs that reportedly preceded the alleged rape.

The suspension prohibits Acacia from participating in university functions and restricts the chapter from receiving any benefits or services provided for recognized student organizations, Stefancic said. Once action is taken, the suspension will be re-evaluated by the university and the chapter could be reinstated pending several stipulations.

"Some examples of this may include membership reviews and assessments conducted by their national office; alcohol, drug or other educational programming requirements; a restriction on social events being held with or without alcohol; and being able to recruit and intake new members," Stefancic said.

Jasmine Dowd, director of the YWCA's domestic violence program and a member of the Tippecanoe County Sexual Violence Task Force, said she's satisfied with the way the university has handled the allegations and the investigation.

"I think they've done a great job in terms of transparency, which is the most important thing. ... There's clearly people coming out and saying what's going on and speaking to the real issue," she said. "I think that's so important, so I think they have responded well in terms of what the nation is doing with sexual assault."

Dowd said she has worked extensively with Purdue students, noting that the demographic most affected by sexual assault continues to be 18- to 24-year-olds.

"We do get phone calls," she said, "and we do meet with students."

Beth Lutes, co-director of Lafayette Crisis Center, said she hasn't noticed a rise in sexual assaults but has seen increased awareness around the issue. The center, which assists Greater Lafayette and Purdue's campus, recently visited several Greek organizations to offer rape-prevention education.

"On Purdue's campus, I've seen a rise in awareness that these things happen," she said.

Gebbie said IFC has one week of safer sex education per year, during which guest speakers address sexual assault prevention. And organizers are pushing for more.

"We're not doing it to look good," he said. "We're doing it for the safety of our members."


Information from: Journal and Courier,

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Journal & Courier.

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