STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Within the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Pennsylvania State University, the Facebook page and its photographs - of drug deals, hazing and nude, unconscious women - were supposed to be among its brotherhood’s secrets.
But the clandestine website, known as 2.0 after a previous manifestation was discovered and shut down, has, since mid-January, been the subject of a police inquiry that this month led to the suspension of the fraternity’s Penn State chapter and could result in criminal charges.
“The evidence offered by the Facebook postings is appalling, offensive and inconsistent with the university community’s values and expectations,” Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs, said Tuesday in a statement. “We are confident that the various investigative and review processes, both internal and external to the university, will determine responsibility in this case. The university will hold accountable any groups and individuals found responsible.”
The Police Department here learned about the website in January when a former member of the fraternity walked into a police station and asked to meet with the authorities about what he thought might be criminal conduct. The man, who has since been declared a “cooperating informant,” eventually showed investigators printed copies of some of the photographs that appeared online.
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“Some of the postings were of nude females that appeared to be passed out and nude or in other sexual or embarrassing positions,” a detective wrote in a January search warrant. “It appears from the photos provided that the individuals in the photos are not aware that the photos had been taken.”
The police said the images provided by the man, whom The New York Times is not naming, “only showcase a small fraction of the posts on the page.”
The man told the police that although 2.0 was relatively new, the conduct that was its foundation was not. A similar website, called “Covert Business Transactions” and connected to Kappa Delta Rho, had been a clearinghouse for similar images until last year, when a woman who appeared topless in a photograph learned about the page and hastened its end.
“The new page, 2.0, was created shortly after” and grew to include 144 members, the search warrant said.
John Gardner, the assistant police chief in State College, said at an afternoon news conference that his department’s investigation was continuing. No one had been arrested, but Gardner said the authorities could ultimately file harassment charges.
Officials at the university, where the Kappa Delta Rho chapter was founded just more than 95 years ago, said they learned about the inquiry March 3. Later that day, citing the “highly inappropriate photographs,” a governing body for the university’s Greek-life groups suspended the chapter. The governing body, the Interfraternity Council, said its discipline would “not be lifted until after the case has been resolved.”
On Tuesday, a national Kappa Delta Rho committee imposed its own sanctions against the chapter - a one-year suspension and a “reorganization” - for what the fraternity described as “most serious misconduct.”
“The national leadership of Kappa Delta Rho is committed to hold our brothers accountable for their actions,” Joseph S. Rosenberg, the fraternity’s executive director, said in a separate statement. “We embrace the principle of respect for all persons, and we will adhere to that principle in this matter.
Students on this campus of about 47,000 were dismayed but unsurprised by the episode.
“I thought it was really sad,” said Rebecca Rejto, a senior biology major who was eating lunch at the student union. “It is disgusting - disturbing. I think fraternities need to be better educated about the use of social media and treatment of women.”
Taylor Bivens, a junior studying bio-behavioral health, described the episode as “sad and scary.”
“Those are some strange and cruel things they did,” he said. “But it’s out there.”
A student conduct official at Penn State, Danny Shaha, said the fraternity’s members could remain in the chapter’s Tudor-style house along East Prospect Avenue. Just below the fraternity motto promoting, in Latin, “honor above all things,” the house’s front door went unanswered.