At Penn State, strong words, anger over frat

PennStateProtest
Protesters at a rally at Penn State asked for a reevaluation of the university’s Greek system. (MATT ROURKE / Associated Press)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Strong words - scrawled on cardboard, bedsheets, and white paper - made it clear: Pennsylvania State University students were angry.

They were angry at the brothers of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity, especially the 144 members of two invitation-only Facebook groups containing photos of naked, unconscious women.

And they were upset with the university administration for not taking a stronger stance.

More than 100 students and other supporters demonstrated Friday afternoon on the snowy campus.

A sign on a large sheet toward the back of the crowd read, "Rape culture lives here."

Meanwhile, in Hershey, at a meeting of the board of trustees, Damon Sims, vice president of student affairs, presented a recently released university task force report on sexual assault and tied it to Kappa Delta Rho.

"Arguably no issue in higher education today is more high-profile or potentially incendiary than sexual misconduct," said Sims, who laid out 18 improvements recommended by the task force, including more training, a student survey, better reporting of misconduct, and an overhauled hearing process. "We need look no further than this week's news about a fraternity chapter in State College."

Public attention to the allegations about Kappa Delta Rho, he told trustees, "has been swift, national in scope, and deeply embarrassing for our university community."

Later in the day, university president Eric Barron said he would meet with the senior leadership team Monday to discuss a comprehensive review of fraternities on campus. He said he understood students' frustrations and need to demonstrate.

"If I were reading the newspapers about the event, I would probably be standing out there with a sign as well," he said. "I can understand what my students are doing perfectly well."

Asked what his sign would say, Barron responded, "Shame on you."

Back at the campus protest, Miranda Holmes needed just one word on her placard to express her feelings: "Expulsion."

Holmes said she doesn't want those involved in those Facebook groups on her campus, going to class with her, or earning a Penn State degree.

With their actions, she said, they have lost those privileges.

Around noon, as snow fell on the Old Main administration building by the university's front gates, rally organizers read a letter to Barron calling for the interim suspension of all men in the Facebook group, for the expulsion of those found responsible, and for the university to "sever all ties" with the fraternity chapter.

The organizers also asked for a reevaluation of the university's Greek system, something Barron had proposed in a letter to the Penn State community earlier in the week.

Jeffrey Masko, a member of the university's Progressive Student Coalition, said he felt it important for men to stand up for these women. Males were sprinkled throughout the crowd.

Irving Lewinson, a junior, said he joined the protest to show solidarity.

He said he was upset at the fraternity's actions, but not shocked.

"I would not be surprised if every frat had a page like this," Lewinson said. "And I would not be surprised if all of them mysteriously were deleted in the last three days."

Also Friday, the board approved a 3.89 percent increase in room and board costs, but not before John Hanger, Gov. Wolf's representative, urged against it. Any increase, Hanger said, should not exceed the cost of living.

After debate, all but one board member approved the hike after Barron promised to use some of the proposed increase in state funding to lower any tuition increase for students.

As for room and board, students in a standard double room and the most common meal plan will pay $10,150 next year - an increase of $380.


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