Sex assault allegation not behind Iowa fraternity closure, official says

Decision came well before assault allegation surfaced

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A decision by Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national headquarters to close its University of Iowa chapter last month came before an allegation of sexual assault at the fraternity surfaced, an official said Wednesday.

A Sept. 11 report to Iowa City police regarding an alleged sexual assault at the fraternity house on Sept. 8 was not considered in the national board’s decision to suspend its Iowa chapter, said Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communications for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“Our board of directors’ decision to closes the chapter came before we had learned of any sexual assault investigation,” he said. “We investigated risk management and hazing allegations, and that is why we decided to close the chapter.”

Weghorst said local and UI officials brought risk management and hazing concerns at the fraternity to the national chapter’s attention. He said the headquarters investigated the allegations and took action immediately.

He said the organization does not plan to release details about what specifically led to the closure, but he said the fraternity’s risk management policy covers alcohol and social guidelines, and it makes sure members are fraternizing in a safe environment.

Meanwhile, the Iowa City Police Department is continuing to investigate an allegation of sexual assault at the recently shuttered Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, 302 Ridgeland Ave.

Few details have been released about the sexual assault allegation. A redacted report shows only that the complaint was made by a white female in Iowa City.

“It’s still under investigation – we are still working with the victim and all the parties involved to determine what occurred,” Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said. “We are looking into whether alcohol as a factor.”

The involvement of alcohol is important, Brotherton said, because Iowa law defines sexual misconduct, assault or harassment as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature committed without consent by force, intimidation, coercion or manipulation.

According to the state statute, people who can’t give consent include people who are asleep, unconscious, or incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol or medicine.

Lab results from the sexual assault investigation are still pending.

“Police are still sorting through the circumstances,” Brotherton said.

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