Offensive survey may spell end of fraternity - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Offensive survey may spell end of fraternity

Burlington, Vermont - December 13, 2011

The University of Vermont temporarily suspended a fraternity after a questionable questionnaire. Administrators call the social survey "highly-offensive" because of a question about rape.

The school is investigating and notified police. Women's groups are pushing for the frat to be permanently banned.

Sigma Phi Epsilon was already on social probation for alcohol violations. Now both the school and national fraternity have told the brothers they must cease all operations.

The SigEp survey starts with typical questions: name, major, favorite memories.

But, the final question drew the eye of the UVM administration. It reads: "If I could rape someone, who would it be?"

"So that causes great concern to us about what's the purpose of that kind of question," said Annie Stevens. She oversees student and campus life at UVM. That includes Greek life, an option that suits about 8 percent of students on-campus.

She says the school decided to temporarily suspend the fraternity which is already on probation for alcohol violations. "Nothing social, nothing formal as a chapter, they can still live in the house, but no chapter activities can take place," she said.

Student blogs claim a new member accidentally emailed the survey-- rather than his assignment-- to a teaching assistant. One blog also alleges a fraternity brother has been accused of rape.

School administrators say they can't confirm those claims but are looking into them.

The national fraternity released a statement that reads in part: "Any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the fraternity."

Those at the fraternity house told us they'd been instructed not to speak to media at this point.

Students on-campus say they're appalled.

"I am greatly offended by what they said," freshman Meredith Knowles said. "Someone very close to me was actually raped, so it hits close to home."

"I think the suspension is fairly just," fellow freshman Peter Schonning said. "I mean, there is the First Amendment and all, but I think that is definitely going outside the lines."

"It should be just as bad as hazing, it's just as harmful," junior Sonia David said. "There are a lot of people who have experienced sexual violence, on-campus and elsewhere, just really disrespectful."

Women's groups on campus have already received nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition to get rid of the brotherhood. They're also hosting a rally to support their cause Thursday.

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