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U of M fraternities ban parties after third assault

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Phi Gamma Delta fraternity
The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house near the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Minneapolis police say a woman said she was sexually assaulted at the house late last week. It's the third such incident reported in three weeks at university fraternities.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

The presidents of all 24 fraternities on the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus say they will ban parties for now following a third sexual assault at a fraternity house in as many weeks.

Fraternity leaders say houses will likely see permanent changes to their policies to help prevent problems in the future. 

Since the frat houses are outside of the university campus, Minneapolis police are handling the cases. 

Sgt. William Palmer says he can't offer much information about what happened. 

"I can tell you that all three cases are under investigation, none of them are related to the other two, and alcohol was involved in all three," he said. No arrests have been made. 

The incidents have prompted the U's Interfraternity Council to take action. On Sunday the council put a so-called social moratorium in place. The move means no alcohol can be consumed at a frat house, if guests from outside the house are present. 

That essentially puts a halt to partying at university fraternities for the time being. 

Interfraternity Council President Martin Chorzempa says that should give fraternities time to reevaluate their policies. 

"What this is designed to do is essentially insure that we have no more distractions, no more allegations, no more difficulties in the coming weeks so we can focus on a lot of strategy and a lot of discourse with community in figuring exactly what we need to do to move forward," he said.

The council has also suspended the membership of one fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, from the group for four years.

Chorzempa wouldn't give details on why, but there was an incident at the house on September 18th. A woman reported that a man broke into a bathroom and sexually assaulted her. 

The problem in the eyes of public safety officials is the sheer number of people at fraternity parties, they're hard to control, and it makes it impossible for fraternities to know who's in their house and what up they're up to. 

Inspector Bryan Schafer of the Minneapolis Police Department says many of the problems at fraternities are caused by party crashers. 

"The violent crime issues most often are people who are coming to the party uninvited, specifically seeking out these parties as an opportunity to prey on innocent victims."

University Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Chad Ellsworth works with Greek houses on issues of safety and security. He agrees fraternities could avoid problems by stopping party crashers at the door and know who is in the house. 

"Having a very good idea, an exact idea, of who will be there and who's invited and restricting access to people who have been invited," he said.

That's one of the tips Ellsworth's office gave to fraternities last spring when they held a meeting on safety issues. The were also told to consider hiring private security guards, or restricting access to their house with a sober person watching the door. 

"Some of the organizations have done a really good job of implementing those, but some of the groups did not do a good job and have seen some consequences because of that."

The University of Minnesota doesn't have jurisdiction over fraternities, since they're private organizations. 

That means it's up to the Interfraternity Council to make any changes to policy. They say they'll look at permanent solutions to address the incidents that have happened recently.