Members of Penn State's Kappa Delta Rho fraternity chapter are now under criminal investigation, according to authorities, for allegedly maintaining a private Facebook page that featured pictures of nude, often unconscious women.
The members are still living in their fraternity house -- the university has suspended activities -- but their chapter has been suspended for the rest of the semester by its national chapter. According to a search warrant, a fraternity member who had graduated arrived at the police station in January with concerns that the page called "2.0" was illegal.
He also told police that the page had been created after a similar page called "Covert Business Transactions" had been taken down when an alleged victim who was the subject of a nude photo complained, according to the warrant. There were 144 active users on the page at the time the police learned of the page's existence, the warrant stated.
In the search warrant the police found multiple pictures of nude women, who appeared to be passed out or in sexual or embarrassing positions. Other photographs reportedly showed drug deals and hazing rituals. Authorities said they were considering criminal charges that could include invasion of privacy as well as harassment.
"If these allegations are true then there were many females who were victims of illegal offenses," said Chief Tom King of the State College Police Department. King said he had not viewed the images but had been told they were "graphic" and "appalling."
Penn State President Eric Barron vowed today to punish anyone who was a perpetrator.
"There are criminal implications here," he said during a news conference. "The university will go through its process of examining the evidence and what's most important in my view is that we do it right, that we understand exactly who's responsible and then we pass judgment on those individuals or the organization for that behavior because it's simply unacceptable."
The chapter was suspended by the Penn State Interfraternity Council and will undergo a review before it is sanctioned, said the council's president, Rick Groves.
"Unfortunately, incidents such as these have become increasingly prevalent in recent years and have undoubtedly tarnished the reputation of the fraternity and sorority community," Groves said in a statement. "Kappa Delta Rho will be held accountable. Their justice will be swift, but it will not be frantically determined."
On Tuesday, the University of Houston suspended Sigma Chi fraternity's Epsilon Xi chapter indefinitely as well as five of its members for hazing allegations it called "disturbing."
In a statement, university President Renu Khator said she was "shocked, dismayed and deeply disappointed" and that the "health and safety of our students have come into question."
"Pending further investigation and due process, if the allegations prove to be true, those responsible will be subject to immediate disciplinary action," Khator said. "Let me be clear, hazing is a criminal act."
Khator did not reveal details of the alleged hazing incident or name the five students who were suspended. She said that campus police had given its findings to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
The national headquarters of the fraternity said in a statement that it had suspended the chapter in January after learning of the allegations. It then began its own investigation and informed the University of Houston.
"Hazing, in all of its ugly forms, will be eliminated from Sigma Chi," said Michael Greenberg, the fraternity's international president, in a statement. "Hazing is so far removed from the principles we believe in that we cannot, and will not, allow it to continue. Those who engage in this vile tactic will be held accountable."
The University of Houston's announcement came as the national office of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity rolled out a new, four-part initiative on diversity today after a video was released last week of its University of Oklahoma chapter members singing a racist chant.
The Oklahoma chapter was closed and two students were expelled from the school. SAE's national headquarters said its initiative included the creation of a confidential hotline as well as the hiring of a director of diversity and inclusion. The national headquarters said it also continued to investigate whether similar practices were occurring in SAE chapters on other campuses.
"We are focused on trying to determine the root of this song or this chant, where it came from," said Blaine Ayers, SAE's executive director. "That's our primary focus."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.