A former University of Nebraska-Lincoln student sued Sigma Alpha Epsilon last week for negligence after she was reportedly sexually assaulted following an off-campus party sponsored by the fraternity.

The complaint by an unnamed woman in Lancaster County District Court on Nov. 21 alleges that she attended a party Oct. 22 at a house located at 2845 Starr St. that was rented by members of the fraternity.

According to the suit, written by Elizabeth Govaerts of Powers Law, the woman said she was served alcohol by members of the fraternity to the point where she became incapacitated.

She awoke the next morning at Sigma Alpha Epsilon's chapter house at 635 N. 16th St., only "to find that she had been sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant" who she said was a member of the fraternity. She says she could not remember how she returned to campus.

The woman reported the incident to university police at 8:48 a.m. on Oct. 23, according to an incident report.

UNL Assistant Police Chief Hassan Ramzah said the police are actively investigating the report, but provided no further details.

The university declined to say if any administrative investigations were taking place into the alleged assault. Title IX investigations required by federal law in cases of sexual violence are kept confidential, and precede other administrative actions.

"We would always look into any violation of the student code of conduct or other university policies," a UNL spokeswoman said.

In the lawsuit, which names the UNL chapter, its local building association, and the national organization, the woman accused fraternity members of not taking action to prevent a sexual assault from occurring.

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"The defendants should have realized that the unsafe condition involved unreasonable risk of harm" to the woman who reported the alleged sexual assault, as well as other women present at the party, the complaint states.

She also alleged Sigma Alpha Epsilon failed to have policies and procedures in place to protect women, and failed to hire, train or retain officers or staff tasked with protecting women from sexual assault at parties.

The woman, who is no longer enrolled at UNL, is seeking undisclosed damages for physical and mental injuries, as well as lost earning potential. She's also seeking $3,000 to cover her medical expenses following the reported assault.

Govaerts represents another former UNL student who sued the Chi Pi fraternity in May, saying the organization bore responsibility for not preventing a sexual assault committed after a woman became incapacitated at a party.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was founded in 1856 and is one of the nation's largest fraternities with chapters on more than 240 college campuses. UNL's chapter, referred to as Lambda Pi, was chartered in 1893.

Following a string of nine deaths associated to the fraternity and its activities over seven years, Bloomberg named Sigma Alpha Epsilon one of the deadliest fraternities in the U.S. in 2013.

The next year, Sigma Alpha Epsilon ended its pledge process, replacing it with instant membership for selected applicants and requiring them to complete a certification program that includes education on the risks of consuming alcohol and partying.

A call to the fraternity board's president was not immediately returned.

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

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

Lincoln Journal Star reporter Riley Johnson contributed to this report.


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