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Fraternity at UCLA Suspended Over Party

Discipline: University's alcohol policies were violated at event where woman claimed she was raped, school officials say.

August 21, 1996|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA on Tuesday announced that it is suspending the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity for the fall quarter because members violated the university's alcohol policies at a Palm Springs party, where three fraternity members were accused of sexually assaulting a sorority woman.

Although the Riverside County district attorney's office decided not to file rape charges against the three men, campus officials said they found that ZBT served alcohol to underage students at the party.

"The recognition contract the fraternity signs with the university, as well as their own guiding documents, are very specific about obeying laws and policies governing the use of alcohol," said Robert Naples, dean of students and assistant vice chancellor for student and campus life. "Our fact-finding, which the fraternity has not contested, showed the rules were clearly broken."

Under the suspension, ZBT cannot participate in homecoming, social functions, intramurals or other school-sponsored events during the fall quarter from Sept. 23 through Dec. 13. The fraternity must also set up drug, sex assault, date rape and alcohol awareness programs for all its members. The fraternity will be allowed to recruit new members during the suspension.

If all conditions of the suspension are met, the fraternity's standing will be upgraded to probation for the rest of the academic year, officials said. ZBT's privileges will be returned, but its events will have to be approved by campus officials.

Although a fraternity spokesman criticized the suspension as overly harsh, school officials said the action was justified.

"There was no monitoring of activities at the [Palm Springs] party," said Berky Nelson, director of UCLA's Center of Student Programming. "There were kegs of beer made available to men and women, indiscriminate of their age."

The party took place over the weekend of June 1. Fraternity members rented out an entire 66-room hotel to celebrate the end of the school year.

It was during the event that a 20-year-old sorority member claimed that three ZBT members raped her, but the Riverside County district attorney's office declined to file charges after she said she would not testify.

The case was further complicated by the woman's use of alcohol and marijuana, and her participation in a sexually explicit party game before the alleged incident, officials in the district attorney's office said at the time. Although prosecutors chose not to pursue the case, university and fraternity leaders launched their own investigation.

Gary Schwartz, an alumni advisor to the UCLA chapter of ZBT, said he had expected the university to impose some restrictions against the fraternity, but felt that the suspension was excessive.

"This is the most severe set of sanctions imposed on a fraternity chapter," Schwartz said. "I don't think that breadth of a social ban should have been imposed."

Nelson, however, said this sort of disciplinary action is not unprecedented. Several years ago, the university took similar action after the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity distributed a songbook filled with lyrics involving sexual violence.

"Organizations, whether Greek or non-Greek, are expected to adhere to certain principles and guidelines," he said.

While fraternity members said they were disappointed about the sanctions, they were optimistic that their house would get through it.

"Zeta Beta Tau has much more to offer than social engagements," said house vice president Jason DeVries. "While these sanctions will drastically affect our fall social plans, the strength of our house and its members will pull us through this."

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