Pennsylvania State University finds itself at the center of another scandal with sexual overtones as police investigate allegations that members of a fraternity posted pictures of nude women, some of whom appeared to be sleeping or passed out, on private Facebook pages.
The Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho has been suspended for one year by its national office in the wake of the allegations and ongoing investigation, the national organization announced Tuesday afternoon.
A former member of Kappa Delta Rho tipped off police to two invitation-only Facebook pages in January, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by police in State College. The investigation was first reported by WJAC-TV in Johnstown.
It's not clear how long the Facebook pages had been online. The more recent page, titled 2.0, listed 144 active members, including current students and alumni, and had been posted for at least eight months before the January report by the former member, police said.
"Some of the postings were of nude females that appeared to be passed out and nude or in other sexual or embarrassing positions. It appears from the photos provided that the individuals in the photos are not aware that the photos had been taken," according to the 25-page affidavit, which includes several photographs of nude and partially nude women.
No charges have been filed, but police are trying to learn the identity of members who posted on the pages, said State College Police Officer Kelly Aston, community relations and crime prevention specialist. Police also are hopeful that victims will come forward, she said.
Aston declined to say whether the woman identified in the police filing has agreed to press charges.
"The victim has been notified and is aware of the case," she said.
Penn State issued a statement Tuesday afternoon calling the evidence "appalling, offensive, and inconsistent with the university community's values and expectations."
"We are confident that the various investigative and review processes, both internal and external to the university, will determine responsibility in this case," said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs. "The university will hold accountable any groups and individuals found responsible."
No one at the fraternity house at 420 E. Prospect Ave. would comment Tuesday. Three men leaving the rambling Tudor-style stone building yelled at a reporter taking a picture.
"It looks nice today, doesn't it?" one called from a car window as they drove away. "It's a castle," added another.
Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said she was heartened by the swift response to suspend the fraternity. She praised the former member who came forward.
"This is the kind of thing we wish we would see more often and earlier," she said.
She said she was disturbed by the allegations.
"It's really evidence of a culture that is supportive of sexism, at best," she said. "But it looks quite a bit worse than that."
Revelations about the Facebook pages came a little more than a month after the university announced sweeping changes in a task force report on sexual assault and misconduct, including requiring most employees to report allegations, changes in the campus' hearing process, and more training for employees.
The university had been under intense scrutiny for more than three years, after employees were accused of not acting on allegations of child sex abuse against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The fraternity case started on Jan. 18 when a former Kappa Delta Rho member approached police about a "private, invite only Facebook page [on] which members share photos of unsuspecting victims, drug sales and hazing," according to the affidavit.
The drugs, the informant told police, include marijuana, cocaine, and medication for attention deficit disorder.
The page went online, the informant told police, after a previous page, called "Covert Business Transactions," was discovered by a woman who saw a picture of herself, topless, on one of the fraternity member's Facebook pages. She threatened the fraternity, prompting the shutdown, the affidavit said.
With the affidavit, police filed more than a dozen photos, including a woman with her breasts exposed and two people having intercourse as others watched.
Also included are screen shots of Facebook comments from the private pages. One read:
"Lol delete those or we will be on CNN in a week."