The first lawsuit came in early July: A freshman at Stockton University alleged she was sexually assaulted while incapacitated by a man who later posted footage of it on Snapchat.

Then three more lawsuits in July and one last month. In each, women claim they were lured to parties, in some cases their drinks drugged or heavily spiked, and afterward choked, bitten or badly bruised, and sexually assaulted.

The common thread in each: The cases were connected to a rundown off-campus house occupied by men who call themselves members or associates of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The problem is both the South Jersey university and the national fraternity office revoked recognition of the group in 2010 for violations, but the wild parties continued.

The women alleged their attacks occurred at the house or were carried out somewhere else by members or associates of the fraternity.

Stockton isn't the first to grapple with the problem of unsanctioned or rogue off-campus fraternities. But the lawsuits, which name not only individual men but also the school and the national fraternity — could plow new ground. They contend that the school could have done more to protect students from the rogue fraternity and mishandled assault reports.

Robert Fuggi, a Toms River lawyer who is representing women who say they were sexually assaulted by members or associates of a rogue fraternity several miles from Stockton University’s campus, shows photos of his clients’ injuries.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Robert Fuggi, a Toms River lawyer who is representing women who say they were sexually assaulted by members or associates of a rogue fraternity several miles from Stockton University’s campus, shows photos of his clients’ injuries.

"These are all Stockton students," said Robert Fuggi, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. "They certainly could have taken action against that fraternity or any other fraternity, whether they are on or off campus … and they chose not to."

Only one of the claims so far has resulted in criminal charges.

Last month, an Atlantic County grand jury indicted Zachary Madle, 25, described in the lawsuit as a Stockton alumnus and fraternity member, for invasion of privacy and aggravated criminal sexual contact. Madle is accused of videotaping "inappropriate touching" of a young woman without her consent and posting it on Snapchat, the Prosecutor's Office said.

Stockton officials declined to comment, citing the litigation, as did the attorney general's office, which is representing the public college.

The suits have roiled the 9,500-student campus, nestled in the Pinelands National Reserve of Galloway Township, again raising questions about what a university can do about off-campus, unrecognized fraternities that engage in problem behavior.

At a student senate meeting on the issue last week, junior Mikaila Strano, 19, said Stockton has failed to adequately inform students about the specific dangers of unrecognized fraternities.

"It's Stockton's responsibility to address Pi Kappa Phi and to address these parties that are happening, not only at orientation, not only at Welcome Week," she said, drawing applause from the room.

About 70 students and staff attended the two-hour meeting, where administrators, too, expressed frustration over how to handle underground Greek groups.

Site of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, off the White Horse Pike in Galloway Township, several miles from Stockton University.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Site of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, off the White Horse Pike in Galloway Township, several miles from Stockton University.

"I definitely share your pain," said Joe Thompson, assistant director of student development and Greek adviser, "and think we need to find other ways as to how we can really inform the student body to stay away from these groups."

Stockton officials said at the meeting that they are planning new health and safety standards for off-campus Greek events and a violence intervention team. The university  said later in a statement that it also is considering "options to enhance the warnings we provide" about conduct infractions and allegations against recognized and unrecognized groups.

The problem is not isolated to Stockton.

At Pennsylvania State University, officials last month warned in a letter to parents that two fraternities, Alpha Sigma Pi and Sigma Alpha Mu, continue to operate even after losing the university's recognition. And in the case of Alpha Sigma Pi, the national fraternity also ordered the group to cease operations.

"We strongly discourage any student from joining these groups," the university warned.

The university also relies on a State College Borough ordinance that says suspended houses are no longer allowed to operate as such without a special permit.

The University of Pennsylvania's struggle with off-campus groups flared in 2016 when one sent a sexually suggestive party invitation to freshmen. Penn formed a task force on the issue and last fall began requiring the groups to register parties and comply with rules or their members would face discipline.

Though Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety at Penn, said she believes that "great strides" have been made, she said: "We have much work to do."

Penn has brought members who haven't followed the rules into the student conduct office, she said.

Site of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, off the White Horse Pike, several miles from Stockton University, in Galloway Township.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Site of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, off the White Horse Pike, several miles from Stockton University, in Galloway Township.

Amherst College in Massachusetts is among schools that have threatened to discipline  students for joining unsanctioned fraternities, while others warn students and parents against joining. But often those warnings, said Douglas E. Fierberg, a Washington-based lawyer who has been involved in litigating fraternity cases, don't fully specify why a group has lost recognition.

It's difficult, for instance, to find information on Stockton's website about why Pi Kappa Phi lost its status in 2010, except for a page that notes: "Assault by members that resulted in hospitalizations."

Stockton declined to release more details.

"Why is it a mystery?" Fierberg asked.

Fuggi cited a 2014-15 Stockton report on Greek life that listed Pi Kappa Phi but failed to note that the group was unrecognized.

"Five years after they said they had kicked them off, there was no indication to current students and parents that this fraternity was a rogue fraternity," Fuggi said.

The university countered that the report was "internal" and  meant to be shared only among those who knew the frat was unrecognized.

Fierberg said national fraternity offices could do more to stop rogue groups and shut down the houses. And he said universities could more aggressively discipline students for behavior that occurs in the off-campus houses; Stockton has a policy that says students can face discipline for off-campus violations, and it also states that students could be disciplined just for belonging to an unrecognized fraternity.

But at the town hall meeting, the Greek life adviser noted that without another code of conduct infraction, that's not an easy penalty to apply.

Student concern has mounted at Stockton University since lawsuits alleging sexual assaults connected to an unrecognized, off-campus fraternity.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Student concern has mounted at Stockton University since lawsuits alleging sexual assaults connected to an unrecognized, off-campus fraternity.

"It's really difficult for us as a university to legally hold them accountable simply for being part of a group, for walking around wearing letters," Thompson said.

Mark E. Timmes, chief executive officer of the national Pi Kappa Phi, said his organization tried to intervene. It sent cease-and-desist letters to the Stockton group among other steps, he said, but declined to elaborate.

Property owners also aren't immune to question. One Stockton lawsuit names the owners of the house at 600 W. White Horse Pike in Egg Harbor City as Amy and Yin Ben Tomm, who could not be reached for comment. The house appeared last month to be unoccupied, with boarded or taped windows.

From 2010 through 2017, Galloway Township police logged 50 calls to that address, including 11 noise complaints, five disturbances, seven thefts or burglaries, two sexual assault attempts, and one assault, Fuggi said.

Fuggi also filed two additional lawsuits against Stockton that don't involve the fraternity but compound concerns about Stockton's response to sexual assault allegations. One accuses a Stockton counselor's son of rape — he has denied it and countersued, and the university's discipline process found him not culpable of assault. The other alleges that a female student with cerebral palsy was stalked for months by an autistic male student without satisfactory intervention by the college.

Fuggi declined to make the women who filed the seven lawsuits available for comment. Several have since graduated or left; one is taking online courses; one remains on campus, he said.

With a new semester underway, Stockton students have been demanding answers. Tuesday's town hall meeting was scheduled after students complained that a prior forum didn't allow for enough discussion. An anonymous opinion piece in the student newspaper was accompanied by a cartoon depicting university president Harvey Kesselman sweeping rapes under a rug.

In a women's restroom at the campus center last month,  notices atop the sinks screamed in red ink: "No More Victims No More Silence #RapeFreeStockton."

This flyer was attached to sinks in a women’s restroom at Stockton University’s campus center last month.
Susan Snyder / Staff
This flyer was attached to sinks in a women’s restroom at Stockton University’s campus center last month.

Senior Samantha Kelly, 21, president of Stockton's Coalition for Women's Rights and a student senator, said the forum gave her hope.

"There were direct questions, and I'm happy that they were directly answered," she said. "From this, the line might be more open now."

Administrators said they couldn't answer some questions, such as whether men named in the lawsuits had been disciplined or remained on campus, citing privacy or litigation.

"My family is constantly worried," said junior Victoria Bonelli, 20.

Some Stockton students interviewed on campus last month were torn over how much responsibility Stockton should bear, noting that the university warns students to stay away from unrecognized frats. Administrators, for their part, said it also would help if students promptly reported incidents.

But some at the forum said Stockton must better inform students where and how to report. One suggested putting important numbers on the back of student IDs.

"What you guys are doing is not working," a student senator told administrators. "So maybe we try to find another way."