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Fraternity Suspended

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced Wednesday that it has suspended its chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln suspended its chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity Wednesday, citing a need to change the organization’s climate and culture on campus.

ATO, which has been affiliated with UNL since 1897, will not be recognized as a university-approved housing unit -- effectively banning freshmen from living in its chapter house -- and will not have a formal affiliation with the university, said Juan Franco, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The suspension is through May 2017, although it can be shortened by up to one year if the organization takes agreed-upon action to address the issues.

The ATO national office, based in Indianapolis, said the Gamma Theta chapter has “agreed to accept sanctions issued by the University of Nebraska and is taking actions on its own,” including expelling fraternity members believed to have been “the catalyst” for the suspension.

Franco said UNL and the fraternity are working together.

"We will be doing a thorough membership review and keep only the students who want to follow the rules and policies both of the university and the chapter," he said.

Members will also be required to complete a review of UNL and ATO alcohol policies, and a "mature adult" will begin living in the house to enforce the rules, Franco said.

The months-long review that led to ATO's suspension began in the spring semester, according to the university.

ATO came under investigation in late February after a female student reported being sexually assaulted at the fraternity house located at 1433 R St.

On Feb. 21, the victim reported the assault to police and was later examined for a possible rape at a Lincoln hospital, according to a UNL Police report. No arrests have been made.

A Title IX investigation, required by federal law, began shortly after the reported assault.

Franco said the reported sexual assault was not a catalyst for the suspension, but the ensuing review of ATO's activities uncovered significant issues.

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"There were a couple of alcohol incidents that led us to look more thoroughly at what they are doing, and we found enough code of conduct violations that we decided to take action," Franco said.

The ATO suspension marks the fourth fraternity suspension and third by UNL since January 2014 when the Sigma Nu fraternity was suspended by the university and its national office after fire inspectors found dozens of fire code violations at the house located at 625 N. 16th St.

FarmHouse Fraternity was suspended indefinitely after the death of 18-year-old freshman student Clayton Real in September 2014 at an off-campus party.

In the FarmHouse case, four members of the fraternity were arrested on suspicion of felony procuring alcohol for a minor resulting in death -- Vance A. Heyer, 21, vice president; Thomas D. Trueblood, 19, freshman social chair; Cory F. Foland, 21, new member educator; and Ross E. Reynolds, 22, member. They await trial in Lancaster County District Court.

Sigma Lambda Beta was temporarily suspended by its national office -- not UNL -- earlier this year while UNL police investigated an alleged hazing incident that took place at an off-campus location. An investigation found no wrongdoing and the fraternity was reopened.

Franco said UNL's Greek system, which includes 49 fraternities and sororities, is a positive part of campus life.

"I think, in general, our Greek system does extremely well compared to other campuses," Franco said. "We are very proud of them, although there are a chapter or two that go astray."

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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