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Fraternity

Some people say members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity shouted sexually harassing statements at participants in the Jan. 21 Women's March (above), but the fraternity says its internal investigation found no proof.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Tuesday suspended the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity until 2020 for instances of "reckless alcohol use, hazing and inappropriate sexually based behavior" that violated the Student Code of Conduct.

Evidence gathered by UNL showed several instances of both physical and mental hazing of pledges over a period of time, according to a university spokesman.

The fraternity, known best as FIJI, came under scrutiny following a Women's March on Jan. 21 in which attendees said members shouted sexually harassing comments toward them outside of the chapter house at 1425 R St.

March participants reported members shouting "No means yes" and a euphemism used by Donald Trump in 2005 to describe grabbing a woman's genitals.

Fraternity members denied making those comments during an internal investigation, alumni adviser Joe Skradski told the Journal Star in January, but UNL opened a Title IX case required under the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX investigations are completed by trained staff independent of law enforcement following complaints of sexual harassment on campus or involving university students.

Skradski said in January that it was march participants who hurled insults and allegedly assaulted fraternity members, pointing to a short video clip that showed a woman hitting a sign carried by a member. No arrests were made or citations written to any march participants or fraternity members, according to university and Lincoln police.

In Tuesday's news release, UNL said allegations made during the Women's March were not the focus of the investigation that led to FIJI's suspension, but indicated the actions that day were consistent with a "pattern of sexually harassing conduct evident in multiple other incidents."

"We have completed a thorough investigation and review, and we have found a clear pattern of conduct that is inconsistent with expectations for a student organization at our university," said Juan Franco, UNL's vice chancellor for student affairs.

Phi Gamma Delta was already on probation from actions taken in 2015 following reports of reckless alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct within the chapter, UNL spokesman Steve Smith said.

UNL placed the fraternity on interim suspension Feb. 7.

The separate Title IX investigation, which was opened a few days after the Jan. 21 march, was expected to take 60 calendar days. UNL said it did not plan to make any further statements regarding the investigation.

No individual members of the fraternity were disciplined, Smith said.

The suspension announced Tuesday means UNL will no longer recognize Phi Gamma Delta as a Greek organization on campus.

Beginning May 10, freshman pledges will no longer be allowed to live in the chapter house, although upperclassmen can remain.

The fraternity can petition for reinstatement in 2019 if it has made certain reforms: a review of its membership, increased oversight, and education on alcohol, drugs, sexual misconduct, hazing prevention and women's issues.

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The earliest it could be recognized as university-approved housing would be 2020.

Bill Martin, executive director of the Phi Gamma Delta international fraternity, said in a statement the UNL chapter would cooperate with the university "to fashion a meaningful rehabilitation" of FIJI.

"The members of the chapter have expressed their commitment to the changes and progress necessary to regain recognition from the university," Martin said.

Phi Gamma Delta is the second UNL fraternity to receive a multi-year suspension this semester.

In February, UNL and the national office of Phi Kappa Psi suspended the Lincoln chapter after an investigation uncovered "problematic alcohol use" in both the chapter house at 1548 S St. and at off-campus parties.

Phi Kappa Psi is suspended through December 2018 and won't be allowed to occupy its fraternity house until August 2019.

On Monday night, Creighton University announced it was suspending its Phi Kappa Psi chapter until 2025 after Creighton learned of underage drinking and the distribution of drugs.

A member of the fraternity accused of stabbing another Creighton student in February said he was forced to take a hallucinogenic drug as part of a hazing incident.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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