Penn State

Penn State fraternity suspended over allegations of victimizing women

The Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on Prospect Avenue in State College on Tuesday, March 17, 2014.
The Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on Prospect Avenue in State College on Tuesday, March 17, 2014. CDT photo

A Penn State fraternity is in hot water over a Facebook page.

Kappa Delta Rho has been suspended as police investigate allegations of “possible criminal activity.”

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed Jan. 30 by State College police Detective Chris Weaver, it all started when former KDR member James Vivenzio walked into the police department with a story about a private, invitation-only Facebook page where members would share pictures of hazing, drug sales and “unsuspecting victims.”

At that time, Vivenzio said, there were 144 members on the page, including students and graduates. The name of the page was “2.0,” the second incarnation of the original, “Covert Business Transactions.” The first page was shuttered when an alleged victim found topless photos of herself on the page after a member forgot to log off, according to the court documents.

Vivenzio provided printouts and other evidence. There were images of a female student passed out in a member’s room, pictures allegedly of a nude Penn State cheerleader, pictures of “strippers hired by the fraternity for a party” and more, according to the affidavit.

“Some of the postings were of nude females that appeared to be passed out and nude or in other sexual or embarrassing positions. It appears from the photos provided that the individuals in the photos are not aware that the photos had been taken,” Weaver wrote in his affidavit.

At a news conference Tuesday, State College Assistant Chief John Gardner called the pictures “very disturbing.”

Weaver obtained a search warrant to access the page at 10:15 a.m. By 1 p.m., he returned documentation of his search, including a thumb drive filled with “material, posts and pictures” from the page.

Lt. Keith Robb said State College police are coordinating with university police to identify any suspects and victims.

The investigation began the day after Penn State’s sexual assault and sexual harassment task force unveiled its report after months of meetings, with a list of 18 recommendations, including changes to the way sex-based cases are to be investigated and handled. President Eric Barron accepted those recommendations in February.

Gardner said the investigation is continuing and that, at the least, charges could include misdemeanors such as invasion of privacy or harassment. He said police hope additional potential victims come forward to help with prosecution or to receive services.

He said that, although most victims appear to be female, it is possible that “a male or so” was also included. He also requested that anyone with photos or video contact police.

When asked if any woman who attended an event at the fraternity house should be concerned about being illicitly photographed or taped, Gardner said he would not jump to that conclusion but, “Certainly, for your own peace of mind, I encourage anyone to come forward.”

Interfraternity Council President Rick Groves sent a letter to the fraternity March 3 issuing a “formal cease-and-desist” order. The chapter is not permitted to participate, attend or host any activities, be represented on the IFC, have members serve in any capacity on the IFC executive board or committees, participate in community service or philanthropy events or intramural sports or conduct any business without consent.

Penn State senior director of student conduct Danny Shaha confirmed that students are still living in the fraternity house, at 420 E. Prospect Ave.

“We are taking this very seriously, extremely seriously,” Shaha said.

The allegations are also prompting a response from the fraternity’s national leadership.

“Upon learning from officials at Penn State that the KDR chapter at the university had been placed on full chapter suspension, our national leadership immediately examined the facts available to us at this time. In accordance with that review, we have placed the chapter on suspension for the remainder of this semester and we are conducting a full membership review and reorganization,” executive director Joseph Rosenberg said in a statement.

“We will cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies and the university’s investigation and disciplinary process. Upon the completion of that investigation, we will evaluate these further findings and make a decision regarding the Penn State chapter that is appropriate for all parties. The national leadership of Kappa Delta Rho is committed to hold our brothers accountable for their actions. We embrace the principle of respect for all persons and we will adhere to that principle in this matter.”

This is not the first time the Penn State chapter has been in legal trouble.

In 2013, the chapter entered a guilty plea to furnishing liquor to minors, netting a judgment from the Centre County Probation for $753.50. Another criminal judgment for $734 was entered in January 2005, but specifics on charges were unavailable.

In 2006, the chapter was sued in federal court after an October 2004 incident in which 20-30 KDR members allegedly entered Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity without permission, in an attempt to retrieve a “ritual book” they believed to be there. “Various fights broke out,” according to court documents, and one man was hit in the eye, fell to the floor and was kicked repeatedly, resulting in a broken eye socket and multiple surgeries. That case was later moved to Centre County jurisdiction and settled out of court.