The University of Vermont has temporarily suspended the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon after one their members sent out a survey asking his brothers who they would like to rape.
Sigma Phi Epsilon — or SigEp — was already on probation for alcohol abuses, but this latest incident prompted university authorities to contact the national fraternity and the police.
While the survey began with ordinary questions like major and favorite memories, the final question shocked students and members of the UVM administration.
“If I could rape someone, who would it be?” the survey asked.
According to student blogs, the survey was leaked when one SigEp brother mistakenly emailed it to a teaching assistant. One blog alleged that same student had been accused of rape, WCAX reported.
Vice president for student and campus life Thomas J. Gustafson told The Burlington Free Press that the matter had been forwarded to police to determine if a crime was committed.
“We don’t know what we’ve got right now; we don’t know which individual or individuals are involved,” Gustafson explained.
The national fraternity released an advisory Tuesday saying they were aware of “a document that included several inappropriate questions.”
“The Fraternity has instructed the chapter to cease all operations, pending further investigation,” the statement said. “Any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the Fraternity.”
About 45 SigEp brothers will be allowed to remain in the fraternity house during the investigation, but official meetings and events must be canceled.
“The men can continue to live there,” associate vice president for student and campus life Annie Stevens explained to the Free Press. “We will work very hard and diligently on what has happened.”
An online petition calling for UVM to disband Sigma Phi Epsilon had over 2,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.
“This egregious expression of rape culture is only the most recent example of systemic sexism at UVM,” the petition charged. “The past year alone has witnessed rape, multiple sexual assaults, and anti-abortion chalking in public spaces. While the university administration has laid off long-time Women’s and Gender Studies faculty and supported sexist institutions like Sigma Phi Epsilon, it has refused to take concerted action to combat sexism and rape culture.”
“An institution that discusses who it wants to rape has no place at UVM or in the Burlington community,” it concluded.
The national fraternity revoked the UVM chapter’s charter for at least three years in 1993 after potential new members were asked to tell racist jokes and explain what they would do with a stripper they had seen the night before.
Students have been asked to contact UVM Police Services at 802-656-3473 if they have any information about the survey.
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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