Brown Shortens Ban on Fraternity Accused of Rogue Parties

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Brown University reduced its penalty against a fraternity accused of plying women with liquor and date-rape drugs, saying a laboratory test was inconclusive, while criticizing what it called the group’s substantial history of misconduct.

Phi Kappa Psi’s ban from campus was cut to 2 1/2 years from four years, according to a statement Saturday from the Ivy League college in Providence, Rhode Island. An external lab test that had shown evidence one student ingested the date-rape drug GHB was invalidated after an independent review, Brown said.

“The single unreliable laboratory test does not alter the overall disciplinary record of this organization,” Russell Carey, Brown’s executive vice president for planning and policy, said in the statement. The fraternity has a “substantial prior record of rules violations, serving alcohol to minors, and poor conduct of members in party situations.”

Colleges across the U.S. are stepping up efforts to curb excesses in campus alcohol culture, cracking down on drinking and sexual misconduct amid scrutiny by federal authorities. More than 90 colleges, including Brown, are under government investigation for their handling of alleged campus assaults.

Each year, more than 97,000 students ages 18 to 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape, while 1,825 college students die from alcohol or related injuries, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates. Four out of five college students drink alcohol, and half of those who do consume it through binge drinking, HHS data show.

5,900 Members

Phi Kappa Psi directors at the fraternity’s headquarters in Indianapolis didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment Saturday. The 162-year-old organization had about 5,900 undergraduate members in 105 chapters last year, according to its website.

Carey said an invalidated lab test doesn’t mean the fraternity has been exonerated. A student conduct board “found a very strong likelihood” that two students were given alcohol or drugs that impaired them and put them at risk of harm.

“Upon further review by an independent medical expert, the laboratory reversed its confirmation of this test result and acknowledged that the test results could neither confirm nor rule out the ingestion of a date rape drug,” Carey said.

School officials said Jan. 19 they sanctioned the fraternity for hosting drinking parties that facilitated sexual misconduct after two students reported being served a drug-laden punch at a party in October.

Phi Kappa Psi will now be able to petition the university to be recognized again in May 2017.

In December, a Sexual Assault Task Force challenged the Brown community to change the “current norms and culture” to foster a safe environment for all students.

Another chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was at the center of Rolling Stone magazine’s now-discredited story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The magazine apologized for the article in December, citing “discrepancies” in the account.