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USC cracking down on weekday parties after fraternity incident

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been placed on probation after a visiting student was injured at an event, forcing the school to strictly enforce event rules.

October 15, 2013|By Stephen Ceasar and Jason Song
  • A USC student runs in front of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on Greek Row. The fraternity has been put on probation after a student from another college fell from a table during a party last Thursday and was taken to the hospital.
A USC student runs in front of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on Greek Row.… (Spencer Bakalar, Los Angeles…)

A USC fraternity has been placed on probation after a student from another college was hurt during an event last week, prompting campus officials to strictly enforce a ban on weekday parties on the campus' Greek Row for the rest of the semester, authorities said.

Greek organizations are allowed to have large parties only after 3 p.m. on Fridays and are required to register the events with USC administrators and the Los Angeles Fire Department. But fraternities and sororities had been permitted by the school to enforce the policy themselves and often had unapproved "mixers" during the week, according to students.

Last Thursday, a visiting female student from Loyola Marymount University fell from a table while dancing at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity about 7:30 p.m. and hurt her head and neck, according to USC officials and safety reports. The student was taken to a hospital; her condition was unknown Tuesday.

It was unclear if the Loyola Marymount student had been drinking or if alcohol was present, but campus officials said the fraternity was in violation of school policy. They declined to be more specific.

"As a result of the Greek community's inconsistency this semester in promoting a safe and orderly social atmosphere through self-governance," USC will also require student groups to closely follow existing rules including registering parties and adhering to a strict guest list, Ainsley Carry, vice provost for Student Affairs, said in a written statement.

Carry also said the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter will not be allowed to have social events until the incident has been investigated by campus authorities. Students coming into the fraternity house declined to comment on the incident, as did a spokesman for the group's national chapter based in Evanston, Ill.

"However, our thoughts and prayers are with the injured student's family and friends, especially during this difficult time," said Brandon Weghorst, the fraternity's associate executive director of communications.

The ban on weekday partying comes as USC has experienced an apparent increase in undergraduate drinking, according to the student-run Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council. "The trends this semester in alcohol-related incidents are not promising," according to a statement by the groups.

Campus police responded to reports of seven intoxicated people between Thursday night and Sunday morning, according to campus records.

Students coming and going Tuesday on Frat Row declined to be identified, saying they didn't want their names or their fraternity or sorority connected to last week's events; another didn't want his fraternity to face any possible retaliation from the university.

Several agreed that USC needs to take steps to curb student drinking.

"I think it's reasonable since people were getting hurt," said one fraternity member.

However, the student also noted that many fraternities hire security for parties and try to create a safe environment, but he said it is difficult to ensure that undergraduates act responsibly.

"It's tough — it's a bunch of college kids trying to have a good time," he said.

In 2010, 16 USC fraternities were temporarily banned from having parties after eight students were taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, according to the Daily Trojan, the student newspaper. And in 2011, fraternities were also barred from having parties on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

USC is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly mishandling student sexual assault accusations. Campus officials have defended their handling of the incidents and say they are cooperating with the review.

Last week, campus administrators admitted that they failed to tell the federal government about 13 alleged sexual assault reports in 2010 and 2011, a potential violation of federal law, which requires campuses to report crime statistics to the Department of Education.

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