KU places Kappa Sigma fraternity on interim suspension based on ‘disturbing and serious’ sexual assault allegations

Kappa Sigma fraternity at 1045 Emery Road on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.

Kansas University has suspended a fraternity after allegations surfaced that multiple instances of sexual misconduct occurred during a party at the house over the weekend.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little approved placing the KU chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity, 1045 Emery Road, on interim suspension Tuesday night, and the fraternity was notified Wednesday. The Lawrence Police Department and KU are conducting separate investigations into the sexual assault allegations, which Gray-Little described as “serious and disturbing.”

“As a community we will not tolerate the type of egregious behavior that has been reported, and we are cooperating with the Lawrence Police Department to conduct a thorough investigation,” she said in a statement. “KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access also will conduct a thorough investigation.”

The Journal-World reported this week that Lawrence police were investigating a possible sexual assault involving an impaired victim, which occurred over the weekend in “central Lawrence.”

On Wednesday Sgt. Trent McKinley, police department spokesman, confirmed that was at the Kappa Sigma house.

A KU student contacted Lawrence police Monday morning and reported that a sexual assault happened late Saturday night at a fraternity party, which investigators determined was Kappa Sigma, McKinley said. He said the allegation included “references to sexual contact having occurred while the victim was impaired.”

KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said she could not disclose how KU was made aware of the allegations.

If true, they violate KU’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, vice provost for student affairs Tammara Durham said in a letter hand-delivered Wednesday morning to Kappa Sigma president Jack Schwartz.

Kappa Sigma is entitled to a hearing within five days, during which the fraternity will have a chance to demonstrate “why its continued presence on campus does not constitute a danger, or threat of danger, to others,” Durham wrote.

During its interim suspension, Kappa Sigma is ineligible to receive any services of the university or participate in any of its activities, Durham said. The chapter’s membership in KU’s Interfraternity Council also is suspended.

Durham also warned Schwartz against taking any retaliatory actions.

“You — and all organization members — are directed to refrain from engaging in actions that might be perceived as retaliation, reprisal, intimidation, or harassment toward anyone who participates in the university’s investigation or hearing process,” she said. “You should inform each member of this directive.”

Mitchell Wilson, executive director of the national Kappa Sigma Fraternity, said Wednesday that he has ordered an investigation into the allegations and that all operations at the Lawrence fraternity house cease.

“We are in the process of investigating this,” Wilson said. “We have suspended operations to give us some time to figure out what happened. We will work closely with the university.”

Suspending operations means the fraternity cannot hold social functions, chapter meetings or be involved in intramural sports, community service or pledging, Wilson said.

Wilson said he only learned about the allegations Wednesday afternoon, and prior to that, he had not had any indication there were any problems at the Lawrence fraternity.

A Kappa Sigma member told a reporter who went to the house Wednesday that the group would have no comment and told the reporter to leave and not come back. Attempts to reach other local members of Kappa Sigma by phone and social media Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The Gamma-Omicron Chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity was established at KU in 1912, according to the chapter’s website.

The Kappa Sigma sex assault allegations come amid mounting criticism by some students, faculty and staff that KU has failed to adequately investigate allegations of rape on campus. KU is one of 76 schools nationwide being investigated by the federal government in its investigation process.

Gray-Little has appointed a task force to review the school’s policies and procedures and to recommend improvements.

On Wednesday she said KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access — charged with investigating complaints of Title IX violations at the school, including sexual assaults — would take steps to ensure the security of individuals who reported the incidents at Kappa Sigma.

Gray-Little urged anyone with information about the allegations to contact the Lawrence Police Department, 830-7400, and KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, 864-6414.

“Part of KU’s commitment to a safe campus is that we all share responsibility,” she said. “This includes intervening as bystanders.”