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May-10-2013 00:50printcomments

Willamette Suspends Fraternity; Issues Statement on Sexual Assault Reporting

The national leadership for Sigma Chi stated that discipline procedures have begun.

Willamette University

(SALEM) - In response to student concerns stemming from a fraternity's Facebook posts, Willamette will engage independent experts along with students, faculty, staff to review and assess the university’s services to survivors of sexual assault as well as related reporting, response and communication systems.

After a preliminary review of conduct following the publication of student discussions in a private Facebook group, Willamette University has suspended Sigma Chi as a campus organization pending a review by both the university conduct system and the Sigma Chi national office.

Campus Life staff will continue the confidential conduct review process for students involved – as well as the organization collectively - based students’ actions, per the university’s standards of conduct.

“The review process will focus on individual students’ conduct” says Dean of Campus Life, David Douglass. The conduct review process will extend into the summer. Some students involved in leadership or campus employment positions have already been dismissed, and others are under review.

The national leadership for Sigma Chi stated that discipline procedures have begun, and it’s likely that 10-12 members will be expelled from the fraternity.

In an email to campus Wednesday afternoon, President Steve Thorsett shared the community’s commitment to addressing the issues raised within the Sigma Chi posts.

“As an institution, we have a zero tolerance policy on harassment and sexual violence, and we must continue to work towards the elimination of cultural or social practices that promote or allow violence. As an educational institution, our main weapon in this fight is education, both in the classroom and in informal settings in the co-curriculum, and I welcome the engagement of students, faculty, and staff in strengthening our existing programs and developing new approaches.”


Willamette students, faculty and staff gathered for a discussion forum Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issues, related conduct review process and to express how such conduct affects individuals and the community.

“We hope to channel this attention and students’ energy into a sustained dialog and increased awareness about these important issues,” said Douglass.

Willamette reports that the episode initiated discussions among students, faculty and staff about the frequency of harassment and sexual assault, the processes for reporting and evaluating related conduct, and the sufficiency of communication about these issues.

Though large surveys of students and reports to university staff don’t indicate a change in the rate of related incidences, student concerns prompted the president to form the Sexual Assault Task Force to investigate.

Kristen Grainger, vice president and Title IX coordinator, and Margaret Trout, director of Bishop Wellness Center, will assemble a team comprising students, faculty, staff and independent experts to review and assess the university’s services to survivors of sexual assault as well as related reporting, response and communication systems.

[President Thorsett’s message to undergraduate students]

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