Penn State cuts ties with fraternity that posted nude photos of women, some passed out

Penn State severs ties with fraternity that published nude photos

Pennsylvania State University is cutting ties with a campus fraternity for three years after the fraternity's members uploaded nude and semi-nude photos of women, some of whom appeared to be passed out, on an invitation-only Facebook page.

Kappa Delta Rho's posts were "deeply troubling," Penn State vice president for student affairs Damon Sims said in a public letter announcing the decision to remove the university's recognition of the fraternity.

In addition to the photos uploaded of women in compromising positions, "several instances of hazing, which included physical and emotional abuse, were uncovered, as were drug use and sales," Sims wrote. "And the investigation brought to light the persistent harassment of two female students, who were degraded through multiple postings to the organization’s private site over an extended period."

National director of Kappa Delta Rho, Joseph Rosenberg, did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Wednesday morning, and the university chapter did not immediately respond to an email. The chapter's website is no longer online.

In a statement earlier in May anticipating the university's announcement, the national Kappa Delta Rho organization wrote that it was cooperating with Penn State officials while conducting its own internal review and had set up a hazing hotline.

"With respect to the problem of hazing, our national leadership will not tolerate inappropriate conduct," the national fraternity said in a statement.

The fraternity had already been given a one-year suspension after university police launched an investigation into the Facebook posts.

A former member of Kappa Delta Rho at the university's State College campus, about 130 miles east of Pittsburgh, told police about the page in January, prompting an investigation that resulted in some of the Facebook posts being made public in court documents.

Some of the posts showed nude women who appeared to in "sexual or embarrassing positions," a warrant said, adding some women were seemingly asleep or passed out. "It appears from the photos provided that the individuals in the photos are not aware that the photos had been taken," it reads.

“Lol delete those or we will be on CNN in a week,” one member of the Kappa Delta Rho Facebook group joked about the photographs, according to court documents that revealed the posts to the public in March.

“373,217 views. All from us,” added a user. (The story indeed appeared on CNN.)

About 144 people including students and alumni were members of the private Facebook group at the time, according to the warrant.

Kappa Delta Rho's national leadership, separate from the university, initially suspended the chapter for the rest of the spring semester pending a membership review. The leadership is "committed to hold our brothers accountable for their actions," Executive Director Joseph Rosenberg said in a statement in March.

Penn State's decision on Tuesday to cut ties brought a harsher penalty than had been advocated by the student-led Interfraternity Council, which governs fraternities at the university. The council recommended that the fraternity keep its relationship with the university, but with some stipulations.

"The University’s educational purposes and its responsibilities compel a stronger response than you have recommended," Sims, the vice president for student affairs, wrote in the public letter announcing the fraternity's penalty, which Sims addressed to members of the Interfraternity Council. "We cannot both sustain recognition for this group, even if various stipulations are imposed in exchange for that allowance, and still make the case that such behaviors fall well short of our community’s expectations."

A university spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking further clarification on what will happen when the university removes recognition.

Times staff writer Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.

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