Vermont fraternity closed over rape survey

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- A University of Vermont fraternity whose members are accused of circulating a survey that asked who they would like to rape has been closed indefinitely.

The national Sigma Phi Epsilon made the announcement Friday after an internal investigation and lengthy discussions with the university in Burlington.

"Without suggesting that every member had knowledge of this questionnaire, the questions asked in the document are deplorable and absolutely inconsistent with our values," said Brian Warren, executive director of the national fraternity organization based in Richmond, Va.

The national organization has said there's no indication the questionnaire was sanctioned by the fraternity or distributed to the more than 50 members of the Vermont chapter.

A student reported the questionnaire to university officials over the weekend, which led the school and the national organization to suspend the chapter temporarily, pending the investigation.

The school is investigating how widely the survey was circulated, and campus police are trying to determine if any crimes were committed.

The survey prompted a women's rights and equality group to organize a rally Thursday in Burlington, attended by more than 200 people, some calling for the fraternity to be shut down.

Members of the Vermont chapter would not comment Friday on its closing, and deferred questions to a national representative.

UVM Interim President John Bramley said Friday that national representatives of Sigma Phi Epsilon have been thorough, respectful and serious in their investigation. UVM's investigation will continue.

"We respect and support their decision, and appreciate their interest in maintaining a dialogue going forward to identify lessons learned from all of this, as well as exploring educational strategies and opportunities to address pervasive cultural issues that contributed to this egregious situation," Bramley said.

The national organization said it will work with the university in considering when a fraternity chapter might be revived.

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