PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a letter emailed today to all members of the campus community, senior officers of Brown University announced sanctions to be imposed on two fraternities responsible for holding unregistered parties last fall, creating environments that facilitated sexual misconduct. The letter, from Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, also announced a comprehensive review of alcohol policy and social event regulations this spring. (A note clarifying those regulations was sent Jan. 30 and appears below.)
“The measures we are taking this spring reflect our interest in preventing sexual assault by addressing the campus climate at Brown,” the letter said. “All Brown community members need to be involved in preventing sexual violence, and all student organizations are expected to ensure that adequate security measures are in place to promote safe events and activities.”
The letter announced the following sanctions:
- Sigma Chi, a fraternity in Olney House, has been sanctioned with probation and suspension of social and University privileges until fall 2016. It cannot sponsor social events, has lost access to the chapter room, lounge, library, and basement, and is ineligible to conduct recruitment, rush, or initiation processes.
- Phi Kappa Psi, a fraternity in Sears House, has been sanctioned with loss of University recognition for four years, including loss of housing, effective immediately.
In both cases, the sanctions were upheld on appeal and the national chapters have been informed of the University’s action. No individual member of either fraternity was charged with sexual misconduct.
Text of the University’s letter
January 19, 2015
Dear Member of the Brown Community:
This year, in keeping with new federal guidelines for college campuses and in support of the aims of Brown’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, we have increased communication and transparency regarding incidents of sexual misconduct. When privacy and confidentiality guidelines permit, we are providing information about incidents and the University response. We are writing now with an update about two incidents from fall 2014 and about plans to review our policies pertaining to social events and alcohol service.
The two incidents described in this letter involve unregistered parties hosted by fraternities. In both cases, no individual member of either fraternity was charged with sexual misconduct. These student organizations were found responsible for creating an environment that facilitated sexual misconduct through improperly monitored spaces and inadequate safeguards surrounding the service of alcohol.
The measures we are taking this spring reflect our interest in preventing sexual assault by addressing the campus climate at Brown. All Brown community members need to be involved in preventing sexual violence, and all student organizations are expected to ensure that adequate security measures are in place to promote safe events and activities. We recognize that, in the instances discussed in this letter, not all students within the organizations were individually responsible for the events that occurred. It is imperative, however, that all students take full responsibility for the behaviors of their organizations. The sanctions that have been imposed in these cases are emblematic of a growing recognition that the status quo of social events that place students at risk is simply not acceptable.
Student Organization Incidents from Fall 2014
On October 3, 2014, Sigma Chi, a fraternity in Olney House, hosted an unregistered party in the basement of their residence. The Department of Public Safety responded and broke up the party. One student reported an incident of non-consensual contact of a sexual nature that occurred as students were exiting the crowded basement. The complainant was not able to identify the specific individual who was responsible for touching her.
The fraternity had a student organization hearing on October 31 related to charges of the unauthorized party, serving alcohol to minors, and creating an unsafe environment that resulted in an incident of non-consensual sexual contact. As a result, the fraternity was sanctioned with probation and suspension of social and University privileges until fall 2016. During their sanction, Sigma Chi cannot sponsor any social events and has lost access to their chapter room, lounge, library, and basement. In addition, the fraternity is ineligible to conduct recruitment, rush, or initiation processes. Fraternity members are responsible for participating in educational programs on alcohol, sexual assault, and maintaining a safe environment. This decision was upheld following an appeal. The national chapter of this fraternity has been notified of the offenses.
On October 17, 2014, Phi Kappa Psi, a fraternity in Sears House, held an unregistered party during which two students reported receiving an alcoholic drink that contained a date rape drug. The fraternity was charged with creating an environment that facilitated inappropriate, potentially dangerous, and possibly criminal behavior by hosting a party where guests were served a drink that contained a date rape drug. One student reported an incident of non-consensual sexual contact that did not happen within the fraternity’s facility nor did it involve a member of the fraternity, but its occurrence was a result of the student’s incapacitation.
A student organization hearing for Phi Kappa Psi was held on December 5, 2014. The fraternity was found responsible for the following violations: actions that can result in harm; illegal possession or use of drugs; illegal provision, sale, or possession with intent to sell/provide drugs; and violation of operational rules. Since the organization was monitoring and controlling beverage service, it was found responsible for the provision of a drink that contained gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). The conduct board, consisting of a faculty member, student, and an administrator, sanctioned the organization with loss of University recognition for four years, including loss of housing. This decision was upheld following an appeal. After the appeal was concluded, some questions were raised regarding the validity of one laboratory test that was part of the evidence that indicated students had been given GHB. It will be decided, after a thorough and final review of the physical evidence, whether the findings and sanctions against Phi Kappa Psi should be modified.
Because the fraternity was found responsible for several serious violations, based on evidence that is not in dispute, and which by themselves warrant strong sanctions, and because of the fraternity’s history of disciplinary infractions involving unauthorized events and alcohol violations, the sanctions recommended by the Student Conduct Board will be put into effect immediately. The national chapter of this fraternity has been notified of the offenses.
Plans for Review of Campus Policies
In conjunction with our on-going and intensified efforts to prevent and address sexual assault at Brown, this spring the Division of Campus Life and Student Services will conduct a comprehensive review of alcohol policy and social event regulations to promote a safer environment on campus. Given Greek Council’s interest in preventing sexual assault, we look forward to partnering with them and with other students, faculty, and staff in reviewing our policies governing campus events.
While the review is underway this spring, no events with alcohol can be held in any Greek or program houses. Student organizations in good standing can host events in which alcohol is served to students aged 21 and over, in approved campus spaces. All such events must be registered with the Student Activities Office. We are prohibiting parties with alcohol service in residential areas. Approved events will have appropriate security and safety measures in place.
We are encouraged that as a result of increased attention, awareness, and resources, more students are reporting incidents of sexual misconduct when they occur. At the same time, we expect individuals and organizations to be vigilant in their efforts to prevent and to intervene in harmful situations. The University offers a range of programs, including bystander intervention workshops, which can be scheduled by contacting the Office of Health Promotion. Students who wish to report an incident or are seeking support and counseling should visit the Health Promotion web page for available resources.
Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy
Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services
A Note of Clarification
January 30, 2015
We are writing to clarify interim changes to the alcohol and social event policies that were announced in a letter to the Brown community on January 19. These interim measures address concerns about large-scale events with alcohol service, specifically, the cocktail parties sponsored by Greek organizations and program houses, parties involving 100 or more students, and events that require a city permit to sell alcohol. For the spring, these categories of events cannot be held in residence hall spaces.
There are no changes in the policies regarding individual alcohol use or informal gatherings.
The interim measures were put in place to promote a safer campus while we conduct a comprehensive review. Student organizations that sponsor social events are responsible for following all the security and alcohol service regulations that protect their fellow students. During the review, there will be a lot of opportunity for student input as we formulate new policies. We will also monitor these interim measures throughout the spring to make sure they are working effectively.
Here is additional detail about the intent and scope of these temporary measures.
The interim measures are not intended to limit students who are of legal drinking age from consuming alcohol in their residence hall rooms. They are also not intended to limit a small number of friends from gathering in a residence hall room. These gatherings are not considered “events” for the purposes of this policy. However, if there is a disruption to the community (noise, overcrowding of space, etc.) the Department of Public Safety may respond and referral to student conduct may result. Open containers of alcohol are not permitted in residence hall common areas such as lounges per policy found here.
Registered Student Organization Events
The Student Activities Office (SAO) is available to assist recognized student organizations in planning and conducting events on campus. The policy for event registration is documented here. All events sponsored by student organizations at which alcohol will be served and/or at which more than 100 people are expected in attendance should be registered.
For the spring semester, registered events may be held in bookable non-classroom spaces on campus that are appropriate in size. Past events have been held by student organizations in large spaces like Alumnae Hall, Sayles Hall, and the Kasper Multipurpose Room or smaller spaces such as the Underground or the Crystal Room.
Questions have been raised about events off-campus. For clarification, events off-campus can be divided into two categories: events hosted by a recognized student organization at an off-campus venue such as a club and events hosted by individuals at a private house.
Recognized student organizations, including Greek and program houses in good standing, may work with their advisor to contract an off-campus venue to host an event. Appropriate transportation, security and safety planning are part of this process.
Students living off-campus are expected to adhere to Brown's code of student conduct and city ordinances. For more information, see the Office of Residential Life site. Providence Police and Brown DPS work together to patrol local neighborhoods adjacent to campus. They also respond to complaints from neighbors and community members. DPS or PPD may respond to an event taking place at a private house and possibly issue a citation or a report. When this occurs, the information is provided to the Office of Residential Life which will either meet with the students or refer the case to student conduct. This is not a change.
The goal of both existing policy and the interim measures is to help students stay safe. We will be reviewing the relevant policies this semester, in partnership with students, to assure that they achieve this goal. Additional questions about event registration may be directed to the Student Activities Office.