Students at American University launched a petition over the weekend calling for the Washington, D.C. school to expel members of an underground fraternity who may have committed illegal activites and discussed it over email.
Emails posted online last week, said to be from the listserv of Epsilon Iota, discussed an alleged physical assault of a female student, joked about rape and frequently touted underage alcohol consumption and drug use.
The petition reads:
AU students who contributed to those emails (especially those discussing illegal activities, trivializing sexual assault, and using misogynist, sexist, racist, and homophobic language) should not be students at this university. By perpetrating these heinous acts, they have proven themselves unworthy of being members of our community. If the university cannot legally expel these individuals, there should be consequences and measures taken against them to ensure the safety of our students, and the University needs to improve its preventative measures and the way it address sexual assault and violence. AU cannot be a bystander. It has an ability and thus a responsibility to address this issue and make the school a safe place.
The petition attracted more than 500 signatures in roughly 24 hours. A majority of those commenting said they were from Washington, D.C.
Epsilon Iota, or EI, has a less-than-stellar reputation on campus. The university has not formally recognized it for more than a decade.
Since it was originally released Thursday night, the emails attracted condemnation from the university administration and from members of Greek life at AU. Many wrote it to the Tumblr that leaked the emails emphasizing that because EI is not a sanctioned fraternity, it shouldn't be considered representative of members of Greek organizations as a whole at the university.
UPDATE, 9:00 p.m.: American University President Neil Kerwin issued a message to students Monday, saying the emails "cannot be viewed as an isolated set of circumstances," but rather raise "broader concerns about student conduct and high risk and harmful behaviors." Kerwin promised the university would be as transparent as possible in investigating Epsilon Iota, which is reminded was an unrecognized group, but essentially said it would not be able to say whether they expelled anyone due to privacy laws:
What AU is doing
I assure you that the university is taking the information contained in the emails very seriously. We are taking swift and deliberate action to investigate every one of the alleged behaviors and will apply our student conduct code to its fullest extent.
In addition, we are working closely with appropriate law enforcement agencies on any potential criminal activities that are found.
We will communicate as circumstances warrant, and we will continue to promote the highest level of awareness on our campus about student conduct, the behaviors identified in the emails, and the role and responsibilities of fraternities and sororities in our community.
What AU cannot do
Many in our campus community are also outraged by the alleged behaviors and are calling for specific actions and a high level of transparency by the university. However, the university is bound by regulations and statutes regarding the disclosure of names and disciplinary and other actions taken with students and with law enforcement.
We will be as transparent as we can be, but we will not jeopardize due process and the rights of individual privacy. We ask you to understand and respect the university’s governance and legal responsibilities.