President Eric Barron released a statement to the Penn State community in light of the recent allegations against the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho, addressing a litany of concerns after a day in which some accused the university of not coming out swinging hard enough against the fraternity.
Barron assured the university is working with the fraternity’s national headquarters to determine if the fraternity will have a presence at Penn State. He added that if that is the case, the university will help set the conditions for that future presence.
Barron applauded the IFC “for taking swift action to suspend the activities of this chapter on March 3 when we learned of the existence of this social media site,” but also added a sobering caveat about Greek life.
“It also brings us to a point where we must ask if a re-evaluation of the fraternity system is required,” Barron said in the statement. “Some members of the University senior leadership believe it is, and we are considering our options.”
Barron said there are accusations within fraternal life, including hazing, excessive drinking, and sexual assault that “absolutely must be addressed.”
“I ask everyone to please give the best of yourselves to our community and show greater respect for one another. It is the only way to create the change that must occur to make sexual misconduct a thing of the past.”
We also spoke over the phone one-on-one with Barron earlier tonight a few hours before he put out the statement. When asked what he would say to people who don’t think Penn State is acting quickly enough or using strong enough language in response to what the fraternity is accused of, he said he thinks the language is pretty strong. “We are calling it offensive and reprehensible and the people who are perpetrated will be brought to justice, and that is critical,” he said.
In terms of acting fast enough, Barron said, “We have seen so many times a rush to judgment and then turned around and discovered that we didn’t have all the information. And so we’re going to do it right. That’s what our objective is and we don’t want anyone to question it.”
In the statement, Barron added that, “We are dealing with the early stages of a criminal investigation. There are still no named suspects in this case, nor charges — and we cannot speculate on the details of this matter without potentially compromising the investigation itself.”
He reiterated that due process is a top concern.
“There’s a criminal process going on, and a university process that’s going on. And when we get to the end and make a decision it’s going to be the right one,” he said. “I’m not going to minimize this in any way, shape or form, this is behavior that is unacceptable and we are going to have to make sure we do a proper investigation and we bring these people to justice. I don’t think any comments that either seek to minimize (the situation) or seek to rush the university to judgement are wise.”
And Barron has no tolerance for people who try and equate this with a Penn State culture problem. Labeling an institution with nearly 100,000 students as having a particular attitude, because of the actions of a few, is purely to create revenue, he said.
“We have case after case that is high visibility, that is being talked about in the media, in terms of such behavior involving a lot of students and different organizations. It’s not within one. So to suggest that Penn State has a culture here, as opposed to discussing the state of the world, just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Instead, the fact (is) that we have a very large population in this nation and a group of people that make serious mistakes and have very serious errors in judgement. And the best thing we can do is to make sure people know that this is just plain not acceptable, and that they’re punished for it.”
As far as the ongoing investigation with the university, Barron said, “we have both expectations of conduct for student organizations … as well as individual student conduct.” When asked if students involved could face possible expulsion, Barron said all of the potential penalties associated with the university honor court are being looked at, depending on the evidence.
“I’m not taking anything off the table.”