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Vermont fraternity suspended for survey question on rape preference

By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK — A University of Vermont fraternity has been suspended and could face further discipline after it circulated a survey asking members to name the person they would like to rape, and the frat’s national organization said he was shocked by the local chapter’s behavior.

By Thursday morning, about 3,000 people had signed an online petition calling for the university to permanently oust Sigma Phi Epsilon. In 1993, the fraternity was suspended after a video emerged showing new pledges being told to tell a racist joke and describe sexual encounters. The chapter was allowed back on campus four years later, the Burlington Free Press reported.

The newspaper said the campus fraternity’s members, who number about 50, did not answer the door of their frat house and or respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment. But the fraternity’s national director, Brian Warren, told the newspaper Wednesday that he was “shocked” when he learned of the survey. Sigma Phi Epsilon has nearly 16,000 members nationwide.

Warren was dispatched from the fraternity’s Richmond, Va., headquarters to Vermont as officials decided whether to take more action against the University of Vermont chapter. He said one-on-one interviews with frat members were under way.

The incident, which apparently came to light after someone complained to a university official about the survey over the weekend, comes in the wake of a hazing scandal at Florida A&M University and as a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nearly one in five women has been sexually assaulted.

In a statement, the national Sigma Phi Epsilon office said “any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated” by the fraternity and that officials would take “appropriate action.”

On the fraternity’s Facebook page, a commenter who described himself as “one of the alumni that helped get the UVM charter back” after its 1993 suspension said he was not surprised by the latest news. “And I would support any decision to shut this chapter down,” he wrote.

A Free Press reader, commenting on the paper’s website, wrote: “In an odd coincidence, my little girl was accepted to UVM today. Would she have made the list of girls that the frat boys would like to rape? … This is simply not OK.”
©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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