Police report states five witnesses attest to sexual assault
The University of Southern Mississippi completed its review of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, according to Vice Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Burke.
The SAE National Fraternity Office and Alumni Advisory Board handled the statuses of individual SAE chapter members – with 25 of the approximately 30 members receiving various sanctions.
Actions taken by the university in relation to individuals’ statuses as students of the university cannot be made public due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA protects the names of individuals involved in the investigations – these rights are afforded to all students at Southern Miss, according to Burke. FERPA restricts the university from commenting on any actions taken against individuals in the fraternity for violations of the Code of Student Conduct, according to Burke.
“With the assistance of the SAE National Office, the local Alumni Advisory Board and the Office of Greek Life, the fraternity has undergone a membership review that has resulted in five members being expelled from the fraternity, five members being placed on early alum [or] inactive status and 15 members being placed on probation,” Burke said.
One case has been referred to the university’s Title IX Office – which handles sexual misconduct on campus – for its review, according to USM Chief Communications Officer Jim Coll.
The University Police Department has made no arrests, and no charges have been filed at this time, according to USM Assistant Director for Media Relations Van Arnold.
“SAE members in good standing are allowed to remain residents of the fraternity house,” Arnold said.
The university’s investigation of the chapter and any individuals affected did not produce medical evidence of other substances besides alcohol, according to Burke.
“Individual violations of the Code of Conduct and other university policies discovered during the course of the investigation continue to be addressed through established university processes,” Burke said.
However, police reports obtained by The Student Printz through a public records request suggest other misconduct. One discloses possession of alcohol by minors 18 – 20 years of age. Another reports five witnesses alleging that sexual assault was committed against one female student – who was seen taking a small white pill given to her by an SAE member. Witnesses in both reports alleged five sorority members who attended the party became ill and sought treatment at the emergency room.
USM Associate General Counsel Paul Walters wrote in response to the Printz request “numerous specific redactions in the report as well as entire pages” were redacted to protect the identities of individuals involved.
“These redactions were necessary to protect the victims, witnesses and the accused – all of whom are students at USM,” Walters wrote. “There are a number of required protections afforded to students enrolled at USM as well as exemptions in the Public Records act which affect this production.”
According to the report filed on Oct. 30 at approximately 2:30 p.m., the mother of a USM student “advised [UPD Lt. Chris Graves] that her daughter went to an SAE party on Fraternity Row on 10/29/16 at approximately 2230 hours” and further stated that her daughter as well as “several other females consumed one alcoholic drink.” She said “after her daughter consumed the drink, she [did] not remember the rest of the night.”
According to a report filed on Oct. 30, 2016, students contacted UPD Lt. Jared Pierce and advised him that their roommate “had possibly been sexual[ly] assaulted at the SAE fraternity house on Oct. 29, 2016.”
“They further advised Lt. Pierce that [redacted name] was seen taking a small white pill given to her by an SAE member,” the report stated. “They added that she was later found by [redacted name] in an SAE members room … lying in a bed unconscious.”
The report stated that the victim’s friends searched for her after they were informed that the victim “was going to ‘make out’ with a guy in his room.” When the friends arrived, an unknown male was present in the room while the victim was “semi- conscious, wearing a black dress, [with] no clue as to [her] whereabouts and appeared to have been drugged.” Her friends checked on her periodically through the night, and when the victim awoke, “she had no recollection of the previous evening,” according to the report.
The victim’s friends reported that the victim experienced “nausea then tingling in her limbs – eventually to where she could not walk.” The friend informed police that “they believed another female had been sexually assaulted as well.”
The victim reported having physical sexual trauma and “agreed to go to the hospital for a sexual assault exam.” According to the police report, “the victim’s sexual assault kit was transported to the Mississippi Crime Lab for processing” on Nov. 7, 2016.
Following the police reports, the university suspended SAE from campus activities after the alleged misconduct at the party, according to Coll.
Burke and Associate Executive Director of Chapter Development for National Offices of SAE began conducting an extensive membership review and suspended activities of the chapter pending investigation results on Dec. 5, 2016, according to a letter sent to Greek Life leaders. On Dec. 8, 2016, Southern Miss Dean of Students Eddie Holloway sent a letter outlining sanctions against the fraternity for two violations of the Code of Student Conduct to the Mississippi Sigma Chapter of SAE.
“Those violations were: (1) vandalism of University property and (2) violation of the University’s alcohol and drug policy related to the presence of ‘community alcohol,’’’ Burke said. “The investigation of the chapter and any individuals affected did not produce medical evidence of other substances besides alcohol.”
Burke said in addition to various sanctions against individuals, the Mississippi Sigma Chapter “continues to undergo a continuous improvement plan that incorporates the fraternity’s ‘True Gentleman Experience,’ individual member accountability through a working Chapter Standards Board and a renewed approach to new-member recruitment.”
“The office of Greek will continue to monitor the chapter’s progress and will make recommendations to the Dean of Students concerning the future of chapter activities at the end of the 2017 spring semester,” Burke said. “The Dean of Students Office will continue to monitor the developments and will respond according to the guidelines of the Code of Student Conduct as we work to resolve this matter and improve our Greek Life system.”
* Editor’s Note: Corrections were made to the article clarifying the actions taken by The University of Southern Mississippi and by the SAE National Fraternity Office on Feb. 2, 2016 at 8:35 p.m.
The headline was changed from “USM doles out sanctions to 25 SAE men” to “SAE National Office assigns sanctions to 25 fraternity men.” The original headline was inaccurate in regards to who placed the sanctions upon SAE brothers’ status as fraternity members. USM does not have the authority to restrict the status of fraternity members, remove members from Greek Life organizations nor assign sanctions.
“The SAE National Office and Alumni Advisory Board took actions concerning individual members based on the results of their chapter review. These individual actions are separate and apart from any individual actions taken by the university.”