Office of Student Conduct Addresses Ongoing Violations at Off-Campus Residency

Audio/Story posted November 11, 2020 in News, CommRadio by Lizzie Friel

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vice President for Penn State Student Affairs Damon Sims sent out an email message this past Friday to the entirety of the student body regarding ongoing issues and conduct violations at an off-campus residency, located at 329 E. Prospect Ave. in State College.

Sims, along with State College Borough Manager Thomas Fountaine, wrote to “share a deep growing concern about activities and allegations” centered around the rental property.

The mentioned residency served as a chapter house for the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity until it was suspended by the university in April 2017 due to several alcohol, health and safety violations. Despite the university’s decision to suspend the chapter in 2017, as well as the fraternity chapter’s national status being revoked, the male students living in the house currently represent themselves as a fraternity.

The same violations from 2017 continued to occur at this location as well as even more issues including sexual misconduct and hazing. The property has also hosted large gatherings this semester, violating State College COVID-19 restrictions. State College police have reported to the property more than 10 times just within this semester.

“Our concern is for the safety of individuals and the broader community, and we want you to be alert to it,” Sims wrote.

Penn State has already suspended two students living at the property, and the State College Borough is considering taking legal action.

Circumstances intensified on Halloween weekend after the house allegedly hosted a large gathering and an underaged female was found intoxicated and unconscious on the sidewalk near the property. The residents of 329 E. Prospect Ave. are being accused of placing the female student outside in this condition while the gathering took place. The student was transferred to Mount Nittany Medical Center last Saturday morning where she was treated for alcohol poisoning and fully recovered. On top of this, another case of sexual assault at this location was filed last weekend as well.

Many students share a growing concern given the recent events of this location.

“They keep passing it down even though the fraternity has been terminated through the university,” said a sophomore student in the Bellisario College of Communications, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I don’t think the [organization] members should still have the house because then they’ll just continue having parties and things like that.”

Penn State Senior Hannah Nelson, a double-major in print and digital journalism and history, is involved in campus organizations centered around both women empowerment and sexual assault prevention. Nelson was eager to share her thoughts.

“I am a woman, first and foremost,” Nelson said. “I am a member of Her Campus, which is centered all around women empowerment, and I am also the president of Survivors and Allies United, which is an org that focuses on and talks about gender discrimination and gender violence and assault here at Penn State.”

Nelson shares that upon seeing the email from Sims, she sensed the urgency of the situation.

“In my four yearshere, I have never gotten an email like this one,” Nelson said. “I don’t remember ever getting an email from the University saying, ‘Hey, don’t go to this house, it’s dangerous.’”

On top of this, she expressesher concern about those students living in the house off-campus.

“Ideally, I’d love to see more people in the house be held accountable for their actions,” Nelson said.

Nelson continues, “I would like to see the university investigate any reports of sexual misconduct or assault at the house first and foremost. Also, I’d want them to investigate the parties and the culture inside the house.”

“Hopefully some peopleget suspended or expelled, because I think that the behavior they’re exhibiting is unacceptable, and personally I find it threatening,” Nelson said. “I don’t feel safe, considering there are people at my school that think it’s OK to assault people, treat people in a very demeaning way, and also have a blatant disregard for the safety of people around them.”

Sims writes in the message that he has never had to take this step in addressing the student body of this type of misconduct, but recent circumstances are demanding him to do so in reiterating student safety. Sims stresses that these reports be taken seriously by all Penn State students.

“We share this information out of conviction that the best protection for public safety includes individual efforts to self-guard against such threats,” Sims wrote. “Residents at 329 E. Prospect Ave. have demonstrated a pattern of behavior that is troubling and has not stopped despite the continuing efforts of local police and university authorities. For that reason, we strongly discourage any student from affiliating with the unrecognized group living in this facility, and we urge you not to attend activities there.”

Anyone with additional questions or concerns may notify the State College Police Department at 814-234-7150 or the Penn State Office of Student Conduct at 814-863-0342.

 

Lizzie Friel is a junior majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact her, email esf5107@psu.edu.

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