Article By Marie Weidmayer
Photo By Sylvia Jarrus
Amid national attention on allegations of misconduct throughout Greek life on college campuses, a State News analysis found nearly 20 alleged sexual assaults were reported at fraternity houses in East Lansing since 2012, though none resulted in criminal charges or convictions.
Several universities suspended Greek life after allegations of hazing, sexual assault and alcohol abuse, including the University of Michigan, Indiana University and Florida State University.
In five years, 19 sexual assaults were reported at fraternity houses in East Lansing, according to East Lansing police reports obtained by The State News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Data was requested for the 29 fraternities that either are or were part of MSU's Interfraternity Council, or IFC, and had a chapter house in the past five years. Eleven of the fraternities had sexual assaults reported.
The 19 cases are approximately the expected number, East Lansing Police Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez said. Only 20 percent of college students report assault, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.
At MSU, the highest number of reported assaults occurred at Delta Kappa Epsilon. The house has four alleged assaults reported since September 2015. It did not have any reports before then.
“When you’re looking at the numbers themselves, certainly that shows a spike,” Gonzalez said.
Beta Zeta has the second highest amount of alleged incidents reported, with three reported since March 2015. In spring 2014, Theta Chi was stripped of its charter, and then operated with former members living in the house under a new organization called Beta Zeta, according to a previous State News article.
Three fraternities, Delta Chi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon, all had two reported.
Of the 19 reported alleged assaults, seven of them occurred on or near St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’d more expect them to be equally distributed throughout the school year, especially you might see more during the fall and during the spring when the weather is warmer,” Gonzalez said. “People are outside a lot. That’s when we have more parties and those types of things, higher alcohol incidents. The one thing with the St. Patrick’s Day timeline, too, is that’s generally when we see the weather start to warm up again. The question has to be asked, maybe it’s not specifically related to St. Patrick's Day, but is it more related to the weather and we see larger parties, more parties, those types of things during that time frame.”
Alleged cases were also reported in January, September, October and November.
Alcohol and drugs are usually allegedly involved in most cases reported, Gonzalez said.
“In a lot of the cases there is a component of either alcohol or drugs use, to the extent that will vary,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes when we discuss the use of drugs in a sexual assault, sometimes that’s not by the choice of the victim. We have had cases where victims have claimed, or we have substantiated their claim, that some type of drug was slipped into a drink of theirs unbeknownst to them. There’s a lot of different facets of why alcohol or drugs are involved in a case, but it is a trend that we see, that a lot of these cases do have some type of a correlation with alcohol or drug use.”
In the 19 cases reported, 16 victims were confirmed to have consumed alcohol, and it was unknown if the other three cases involved alcohol.
In only two cases, the accused was known to have consumed alcohol, but this is usually harder to prove, Gonzalez said.
“Now that the difficulty of establishing whether or not the accused had used drugs or alcohol when the assault occurred, comes with when the report comes into us,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of these reports are made to the police after the fact. So it’s hard to establish independently with a blood test or even first person observations of the officer whether or not that accused had been using drugs or alcohol as well.”
Gender of suspects
Only one of the 19 cases details a male allegedly accused of assaulting another male. The rest were males accused of allegedly assaulting females.
“We take those cases,” Gonzalez said. “We take those reports periodically. We don’t have as many of those cases as opposed to a male assaulting a female, but I wouldn’t say it’s unusual to see a case like that. We investigate all the cases equally on the merits of the evidence that we can discover and turn over to the prosecutor’s office. I wouldn’t say it’s unusual to see a case like that, we do take them, but we take less of those types of cases than we do the other.”
In the case of a male accused of assaulting another male at Sigma Phi Epsilon in January 2013, the victim alleged he was roofied and unconscious during the rape, police reports said.
The victim was examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner, who found "tears and abrasions" in his rectum, reports said.
The case was closed because the victim stopped cooperating with the police and it was never referred to the prosecutor's office.
Investigation and prosecution
Seventeen cases had investigations stall because the victims did not want to pursue an investigation.
“Obviously, we certainly have cases where the victim does not want to pursue an investigation or even if an investigation is done, they don’t want to pursue prosecution,” Gonzalez said. “The reasons behind that are numerous and they’re very individualistic between cases. Regardless, when we have a sexual assault case we will work all of the leads, if you will, that we can, even if the victim does not want to follow through or is uncooperative with our investigators. That’s simply so that we can do our due diligence and take a look into the case and see if there’s anything there that the police need to act on or need to refer for prosecution.”
When a victim is uncooperative, it limits the leads investigators can follow up on, which in turn means it usually isn’t possible for the case to be referred to the prosecutor’s office, Gonzalez said.
The remaining two cases were referred to a prosecutor’s office, but both cases were denied warrants due to lack of evidence.
One of those cases reportedly happened at Pi Kappa Alpha in March 2012.
The victim said she was drunk and said no to penetrative sex, but the suspect allegedly did not listen to her. The suspect said there was no penetration and the victim never said no.
The case was referred to the Eaton County Prosecutor's Office, but a warrant for the suspect was denied because the burden of proof was not met.
Once a report is made to ELPD, officers first gather basic information where they determine if the alleged assault occurred in East Lansing or on campus, Gonzalez said.
If either the victim or the suspect are affiliated with MSU, the police alert the university of the alleged assault, Gonzalez said.
“What we also do, though, is if the East Lansing Police Department has jurisdiction over the case and we’re going to investigate it, refer it for prosecution, if the victim or the suspect are related to the university we are required to report that to the university,” Gonzalez said. “Even though we may have legal jurisdiction over the case, the university has mechanisms and resources in place that they can refer to the victim for follow-up care, if you will. We notify the university of the incident so that they can on their end, provide some resources and care to the victim as well.”
MSU has a sexual assault program which "responds to those impacted by sexual violence and works to create a community free of violence and oppression," according to its website.
The State News reached out to national headquarters, MSU chapters and university Greek Life officials for comment on the alleged sexual assaults.
Representatives said fraternities have specific measures to prevent misconduct.
“We work substantially to try to educate our community to prevent this from happening," Assistant Director of Greek Life Linda Alexander said. "We also have a good relationship with our Title IX coordinator Jessica Norris. We meet with her regularly. It is a huge commitment that our campus is working towards, to educate, IFC fraternities specifically.”
Greek Life is also partnered with MSU's Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program, Alexander said.
“All the IFC presidents will be required to go to a training specific for presidents, as well as our risks managers," Alexander said. "So both of those specific student leaders will have their own specialized training that they go through in the spring. Along with, the rest of their membership will have to attend a sexual assault and violence prevention workshop in the spring semester.”
One alleged assault was reported at Phi Gamma Delta, or Fiji, on Jan. 24, 2012.
Because the incident happened in 2012, the current Phi Gamma Delta president was still in high school, President Jack Rose said.
"I can tell you that currently we participate in 'Greeks take the lead' and a sexual assault awareness speaker comes to our specific chapter to speak about sexual assault," Rose said in an email. "We also have not had any incidents since that time or since I have been president."
MSU's chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon has four alleged assaults reported since September 2015. The chapter gave a statement promising to hold people accountable.
"We are alarmed to learn of past allegations of sexual harassment against unnamed members of our chapter," the emailed statement said. "We have never been informed of these allegations or related investigation, charges or adjudication concerning chapter members. DKE will not stand for sexual misconduct in our organization and pledges its full cooperation with MSU and law enforcement. If any members are found responsible for sexual misconduct, DKE will immediately use its judicial process to hold members accountable for their actions."
Sigma Phi Epsilon's chapter at MSU was suspended Aug. 15, so the local chapter could not comment. There are two alleged assaults at the house, on Jan. 1, 2013 and Oct. 2, 2016.
"We believe that being able to provide a safe and healthy experience for our members is a prerequisite in our mission to being a valued partner in higher education," the national fraternity said in a statement. "Sigma Phi Epsilon provides training opportunities each year to our members on consent and healthy relationships, and our Live Your Oath campaign teaches brothers how they can help end sexual assault on our campuses."
The MSU chapter of Zeta Beta Tau had one case reported on Oct. 8, 2015.
"It is unfortunate that situations like these occur in Greek Life, and it is unacceptable for an instance of sexual assault to occur in my chapter," President Evan Woodford said. "That being said, the Beta Epsilon chapter like all other chapters of Zeta Beta Tau, have a zero tolerance policy towards sexual assault/sexual harassment being committed by brothers of the fraternity. Needless to say, the individual involved in such an incident on October 8, 2015, is no longer associated with our organization.
"The Beta Epsilon chapter prides itself in being a positive impact on Greek Life, MSU, the city of East Lansing, and having the utmost respect for all individuals is our top priority. We have multiple members of the fraternity who are members of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program (SARV) at Michigan State, and they strive to make MSU and Greek Life a safer place."
The national headquarters of Zeta Beta Tau declined to comment on the specific case, but did explain the steps it is taking to educate its members.
“We have a few different programs that we do with members of our fraternity and then we also do them in partnership with other organizations," Assistant Director of Wellness and Harm Reduction Nancy Schwartz said. “The hope is that out of our 90 chapters, 30 a year are getting some sort of educational program.”
Those programs include an alcohol management program, Green Light Go and Safe, Smart Dating, Schwartz said.
“Our brothers accept the responsibility to participate in society as active and safe citizens, and having that social responsibility in the integrity," Schwartz said. "That personal integrity, I think, is critical to who we believe that we are as an organization. I think especially more than ever it’s really important.”
The MSU chapter of Phi Kappa Psi declined to comment, deferring to IFC.
The MSU chapter of Delta Chi declined to comment.
The MSU chapter of Theta Chi declined to comment because it was not charted during the alleged incidents. Instead, a fraternity known as Beta Zeta resided in the same house. However, there is no national headquarters for Beta Zeta, meaning no one is able to comment.
The MSU chapters of Alpha Gamma Rho, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Triangle did not respond to request for comment. Sigma Phi Epsilon is not an active chapter on campus.
The national headquarters of Alpha Gamma Rho, Delta Chi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Theta Chi and Triangle did not respond to request for comment.
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