Lehigh Valley

Lehigh official: Fraternity suspended over alleged 'racist' vandalism

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh University is suspending its recognition of a fraternity for allegedly being involved in spray-painting racial slurs and throwing eggs at a multicultural residence hall.

Provost Patrick Farrell issued an email to the university community announcing the interim suspension of university recognition for the Sigma Chi fraternity because of its alleged role in the vandalism at the Umoja House last fall. Many students called it a hate crime against the residents with a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds who live there.

Farrell said the fraternity and two individual members are being charged with alleged violations of the university's code of conduct for their role in an incident that included the "painting of racist language."  A formal conduct hearing will be held before the end of the spring semester to "determine whether those charged are responsible for the violations, and if so, levy sanctions," Farrell stated in the email.

Farrell noted that while the university is taking action, there is "insufficient basis for criminal charges" against the fraternity and the two members accused of violating the school's code of conduct.

Farrell said federal privacy laws prohibit the university from naming the two members being charged with violating the code of conduct.

"We understand this has been a difficult time on campus in the wake of this incident," Farrell wrote in the email. "There will be an increased security presence in and around the Umoja House and the Sigma Chi fraternity house for the duration of the semester. It is important to take this opportunity to remind everyone that retaliation, in any form against any individuals or groups, is strictly prohibited by our code of conduct and will result in serious charges under
the code."

Sigma Chi International Fraternity issued the following statement in response to the allegations:

"Pursuant to our own Statement of Policy on Human Decency and Dignity, Sigma Chi is committed to the principle that dignity, self-esteem and respect are inalienable rights of every individual and, further, that acts of harassment or intolerance are unacceptable in any form. We stand ready to assist appropriate authorities in the investigation of the heinous acts that occurred on the campus of Lehigh University on Nov. 6, 2013 at such time when we may be welcome in that investigation process. Though we are not yet aware of any credible evidence that exists to support the notion that Sigma Chi was in any way connected to those events, we stand in support of the efforts underway to bring responsible individuals to account so that justice can prevail."

Back in January, the Department of Education confirmed it is following up on a complaint that accused Lehigh of allowing a racially hostile environment.

According to the complaint, the university failed to respond appropriately after the residence hall that promotes diversity was egged and spray-painted with racial slurs.

Immediately after that complaint was filed, Lehigh officials said the complaint was without merit, but they intended to fully cooperate with the Department of Education's investigation.

School officials issued the following statement in response to that federal complaint: "Lehigh has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion and, with strong engagement by students, faculty, staff and the administration, has accelerated our efforts with a number of initiatives underway."

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