Pennsylvania State University is contemplating a comprehensive review of its fraternity system in the wake of allegations that one of its chapters shared nude photos of women on private Facebook pages.
"I think it makes sense," Penn State President Eric Barron said Thursday, during a break in university board of trustee committee meetings being held in Hershey.
Barron cited national incidents of fraternity hazing, racial discrimination and sexual impropriety, and said that while Penn State has some of the best fraternities, it also has some problems.
"You see cases of hazing. You see cases of alcohol consumption. You see the example we just had. So what do you do to keep the best?"
The review, he said, would be similar to the university's task force on sexual assault and misconduct that recently recommended more training, changes in the hearing system and a requirement that most employees report misconduct, all of which were endorsed by Barron.
He said a decision will be made soon on whether to launch a task force of experts. Penn State currently has 88 fraternities and sororities with about 6,500 student members.
In the meantime, the university, Barron said, is cooperating with State College police on its investigation of Kappa Delta Rho. Earlier this week, police said they were looking into allegations that members of the fraternity posted pictures of nude and partially nude women - some who appeared to be sleeping or passed out - on private Facebook pages. The national office of the fraternity announced Tuesday that it was suspended the chapter for one calendar year.
No one has been charged yet in the investigation, which began in January after a former fraternity member reported the invitation-only pages to police.
In a lengthy statement posted on the university's website Thursday, Barron said he was considering the comprehensive fraternity system review and that some members of the university's senior leadership team believe the review is warranted.
He called the posting of the photos "appalling" and "offensive" and "also potentially a crime."
"I am shocked and angered by the apparent disregard for not only the law, but also human dignity," Barron said in the statement. "I pledge that everything within our power will be done to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and to assist anyone who has been victimized by these shameful acts."
Several trustees attending the meeting in Hershey said they also were upset by the incident.
But trustee Ted Brown, who is a Penn State fraternity brother himself and whose father was a member and whose daughters currently are in sororities at Penn State, warned against a rush to judgment. He noted that the university's prominent dance marathon, Thon, which raises millions for pediatric cancer each year, was born of the Greek system at Penn State.
"I'm happy for any review that's productive," said Brown, a member of Theta Delta Chi. "I think what happened there is awful...(But) Let's not jump to conclusions over one bad thing done by one bad fraternity."
The fraternity leaders, he said, need to be better educated.
"They need to know that there are consequences," said Brown, chief executive and owner of a disaster recovery planning firm in State College.
Board member Barbara Doran, a private wealth portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley in New York, agreed that more education is needed, She said she was disturbed to see the incident occur followng the release of the sexual assault task force report that sought to distinguish the university as a leader in handling and preventing such cases.
"It's a terrible irony," she said.
Trustee Alice Pope, a psychology professor at St. Johns University, said she hopes male students on campus feel compelled to speak out.
"All the decent, kind responsible young men on our campus, I would love to see them stand up and say this kind of behavior is unacceptable," she said. "We do not embrace it. ..and we stand up against it."
The frat controversy at Penn State follows incidents at other schools around the nation in recent months. Earlier this month, a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was shut down after members were caught on video singing a racist song.