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BU fraternity suspended amid sexual assault allegations, student protests

Marsh Plaza on Boston University's Campus on April 17, 2020.Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe

A Boston University fraternity was suspended Wednesday amid campus upheaval over sexual assault allegations that circulated on social media and led to student protests outside the fraternity house last weekend.

BU’s chapter of Kappa Sigma “is suspended from official recognition by Boston University” until further notice, according to a letter from assistant dean of students and director of student activities John Battaglino, cited Wednesday by BU Today, a university-run news site.

The move comes after multiple students lodged complaints with the university regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in connection with Kappa Sigma, BU’s largest fraternity, university spokesman Colin Riley said in an e-mail.

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“The University is looking into the complaints and following up with the complainants and with the fraternity,” said Rileysaid in the e-mail before BU’s chapter of Kappa Sigma, Mu Psi, was suspended. “BU is strongly committed to fostering an environment free from sexual misconduct, and we consistently hold students accountable for violations of the Code of Student Responsibilities with disciplinary sanctions that can range up to suspension or expulsion.”

Battaglino’s letter did not mention the sexual misconduct allegations, according to BU Today, but instead said, “the fraternity is suspended because it met after it was explicitly told not to.”

E-mails and texts requesting comment from Kappa Sigma student leadership at BU were not returned.

Rachel Lapal Cavallario, a university spokeswoman, said Thursday morning that an “investigation is ongoing” into the allegations. She declined to release a copy of Battaglino’s letter.

Unrest on campus culminated in a protest Saturday outside the Kappa Sigma house in Allston as students called for BU to take swift action and suspend the fraternity chapter. Two organizers who spoke with the Globe said students were protesting what some believe is a pattern of sexual misconduct at the fraternity.

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“It’s a problem at a lot of fraternities on campus, but [Kappa Sigma] is the biggest fraternity, so they’re at the center of the problem,” said Yashica Kataria, a BU student and co-founder of the advocacy group Campus Survivors, in an interview Thursday. “We’ve heard from many survivors about them, and the complaints really picked up at the start of this semester.”

The fraternity said last week that it had suspended two members for alleged violations of its terms of conduct, according to Mitchell Wilson, executive director of Kappa Sigma’s national chapter.

“The Fraternity has a very strong Code of Conduct which strictly forbids assault in any form or fashion,” Wilson said in a statement to the Globe last Friday.

BU administrators told Kappa Sigma on Friday, that while the complaints were investigated, the chapter would be required to have activities approved by the university in advance, Cavallario said in an e-mail. But the fraternity, according to Cavallario’s statement, allegedly held a social gathering that same day and a meeting on Monday without notifying the administration.

At the Saturday protest, student organizers issued three demands: for BU’s Kappa Sigma chapter to be disbanded; for the university to commit to “suspending, removing, and disbanding organizations that have a history of members involved in cases and allegations of sexual misconduct”; and for administrators to acknowledge the university’s role in “making campus a difficult place for survivors.”

“We really want to see some change, fundamental change,” Kristen Schallert, president of BU’s chapter of It’s on Us, which offers support and resources to sexual assault survivors, told the Globe Friday. “A lot of us are hoping that with enough people and enough voices, the university will hear us and begin with whatever process they have to take action against the chapter.”

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BU’s student government passed a motion Monday supporting calls for Kappa Sigma’s suspension.

The fraternity was suspended in 2015 for alleged involvement in promoting a party using misogynistic and sexually suggestive photos and videos.

In February, some 600 students plastered the campus with fliers and chalk messages condemning the school’s handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations.

Kataria said she has seen dozens of anonymous allegations about Kappa Sigma members submitted to the Campus Survivors Instagram account. While she wished BU’s suspension would have directly addressed the allegations against the fraternity, any action conveys hope, she said.

”In this sort of situation where we’re dealing with something where people aren’t taking it as seriously as they should be, anything feels like a victory, no matter how small,” Kataria said.


Andrew Brinker can be reached at andrew.brinker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker.