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March 18, 2016

CPD Investigates Sexual Assault Complaints Against Ousted Psi U Brothers

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) says it is investigating allegations that two members of the University of Chicago chapter of Psi Upsilon (Psi U) fraternity committed sexual assaults two months apart in 2015.

According to letters sent from the University-wide Student Disciplinary Committee to the complainants, the two male students were found responsible for sexual misconduct by the University. Psi U has since expelled the alleged assailants from the fraternity.

Citing privacy concerns, University spokesperson Jeremy Manier declined to comment on whether the University has taken disciplinary action against the two male students.

On March 1 at 3:02 p.m., Lydia Pazienza, one of the complainants, related some of the details surrounding her case in a post to the Overheard at UChicago Facebook page, responding to rumors surfacing on the anonymous localized messaging platform Yik Yak. At 6:21 p.m., the other complainant, Kyra Grantz, posted details of her alleged assault to Overheard.

In the first case, Grantz, then a fourth-year in the College, told the CPD on August 11, 2015 that she was sexually assaulted by a male student on the 5400 block of South Woodlawn Avenue around 1:30 a.m. on April 17, 2015. In her Overheard post, Grantz said the assault occurred at an off-campus apartment after she had met her alleged assailant at a private party at the Psi U house that night.

In the second case, Pazienza, currently a fourth-year in the College, told the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) on June 29, 2015 that she was assaulted at the Psi U house at approximately 11:30 p.m. on June 23, 2015.

Alleged April 17, 2015 assault

On May 29, 2015, the University-wide Student Disciplinary Committee informed Grantz in a letter that it had found her alleged assailant responsible for violating the sexual misconduct section of the student manual following a May 28 disciplinary hearing.

According to a letter from the chair of the disciplinary committee to the alleged assailant, provided by a source close to the investigation, the committee found by a majority vote that the alleged assailant committed an “act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct where the accused knew that the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent.”

The letter said that the committee had decided to discipline the alleged assailant with its least severe punishment for sexual misconduct violations: an “official warning.”

Chuck Werner, president of Psi U’s alumni board, which owns the fraternity house, said that he was unaware of Grantz’s allegations before seeing her Overheard post on March 1—nearly a year after the alleged sexual assault. Werner said he did not know that this alleged assault had been reported to the CPD until March 8.

In a letter to the editor that was published in The Maroon on March 4, Psi U President Drew Armstrong cited the University’s confidentiality policy for open investigations as a reason the alleged assailant did not inform the fraternity that he was under investigation by the University.

According to the student manual, in sexual misconduct cases, University policy prohibits all parties and witnesses from disclosing “details or information regarding an incident, investigation, or hearing.” After a disciplinary hearing, however, the complainant and respondent may disclose the allegations, the outcome, and the sanctions.

Armstrong said in his letter that the fraternity is working on a policy that would require its members to notify Psi U if they come under investigation by the University. Werner said he would have to look into whether such a rule would comply with the University’s confidentiality policy. The University did not respond to a request for comment on the fraternity’s proposed policy.

Armstrong said in his letter that several Psi U members met with Title IX Coordinator for Students Belinda Vasquez and Associate Dean of Students in the University for Disciplinary Affairs Jeremy Inabinet on March 2 with the hope of learning the alleged assailant’s name. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Vasquez and Inabinet were unable to share this information with the fraternity.

Armstrong also said in his letter that Psi U reached out to its alumni network in search of the alleged assailant. The graduated member subsequently identified himself to Psi U and informed the fraternity of the results of his disciplinary hearing, Armstrong said. Psi U decided to expel him from the fraternity, which, according to Werner, means he is banned from entering the house.

“We reached out to our alumni network for more information and the accused responded, notifying us of the results of the hearings. We have since banned the graduated perpetrator and are working with the Board of Trustees to take further action,” Armstrong said in his letter.

While the University disciplinary committee found the alleged assailant responsible for sexual misconduct, it did not ban him from attending the same Convocation ceremony as Grantz, she said in an e-mail. In her Overheard post, Grantz said she made multiple requests that he not be permitted to attend. The University declined to comment on this issue.

Grantz expressed disappointment with how the University handled her case.

“The University failed to respond adequately in my individual case and in addressing the negative culture at fraternities, a failure that can be directly linked to Lydia’s assault weeks later,” she said in an e-mail to The Maroon. “I can only hope that my and Lydia’s experiences have been illuminating and encourage reflection and action.”

Although Manier declined to discuss any specifics of the cases, he said in an e-mail: “Sexual misconduct in any form violates the standards of our community and will not be tolerated by the University of Chicago.”

The alleged assailant did not respond to a request for comment.

Alleged June 23, 2015 assault

According to a UCPD incident report, Pazienza told police that she was “sexually assaulted by an acquaintance while visiting in his room at an off-campus fraternity house” at 11:30 p.m. on June 23. According to the report, the UCPD subsequently transferred the case to the CPD.

The CPD confirmed in an e-mail dated March 6 that “a 20 year old female stated she was sexually assaulted by a 21 year old male.” The CPD said that the woman “self-transported” to the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) for an evaluation on June 24, 2015, then notified police on June 29. “This investigation remains open and Area Central Detectives are awaiting results of evidence that has been submitted for testing,” the CPD said in the e-mail.

On September 18, 2015, the University-wide Student Disciplinary Committee informed Pazienza in a letter that it had found her alleged assailant responsible for violating the University’s sexual misconduct policy.

In this case, Psi U was aware that an incident had occurred at the house and that the University was investigating, Armstrong said in his letter. Following the results of the University’s disciplinary hearing, the alleged assailant was removed from Psi U by the fraternity.

“The perpetrator, who was a brother of our fraternity, was apparently found responsible for sexual misconduct by the University. Immediately after this verdict, the chapter expelled the perpetrator from the fraternity,” Armstrong said in his letter.

Werner said he contacted a Psi U alumnus who is now a lieutenant with the CPD to learn more about the incident. He said that the fraternity alumnus sent him what Armstrong described in his letter as a “heavily redacted, publicly available version of the police report, which included the survivor’s cell phone number.”

Werner said he used that number to call Pazienza to ask for the name of the alleged assailant. Armstrong said in his letter that Werner did not intend “to make an already traumatic situation even more painful, but rather to identify the perpetrator so that Psi Upsilon could take appropriate action against him.”

But Pazienza found the call intrusive, distressing, and frightening. “I didn’t go to work for a week after he called, as I didn’t feel safe to be on campus,” she said.

Armstrong said in his letter that the fraternity regrets that it “caused the survivor additional and unnecessary distress.”

Werner declined to tell The Maroon the name of the CPD lieutenant who gave him the report. He also said that he has not been able to find the police report the lieutenant sent him over the summer.

The CPD told The Maroon that a person not directly involved in a case of reported criminal sexual assault can only access a redacted police report through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, a process that can take several weeks. The Maroon filed a FOIA request with the CPD and obtained a redacted police report that does not contain the complainant’s phone number.

“Personal phone numbers” and “user identification” were redacted from the report provided to The Maroon pursuant to Section 7(1) (c) and Section 7(1) (b) of FOIA, 5 ILCS 140, a Freedom of Information Officer with the CPD said in a letter.  

“I’m angry that what is my private information was given out in the name of ‘brotherhood.’

I’m angry that Psi tried to downplay my concerns in their response, saying my information was publicly available when that wasn’t true,” Pazienza said in an e-mail.

“The fact that an organization has the power to do this, and act so nonchalantly about it scares me. How can we trust Psi and other fraternities to police themselves about assaults and other crimes when they partake in corruption such as this? I hope the campus community will take notice of this irony,” she said in the e-mail. “The way both my and Kyra’s cases were handled represent areas to be improved in the future, but I believe we would be foolish to leave this improvement entirely on the problematic bodies themselves.”

On September 17, the fraternity’s then–vice president Nicholas von Horn sent an e-mail to the Panhellenic Council, which is comprised of the Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Pi Beta Phi sororities on campus, explaining that Psi U had removed a member from the fraternity following an incident of sexual misconduct.

“We have discussed the situation at length with the accused who has agreed that his conduct in making our guest uncomfortable was both unacceptable and directly opposed to our values at Psi Upsilon,” von Horn said in the e-mail. “The executive board of our chapter has decided to ban this former member from any future involvement with our fraternal organization in order to iterate where we stand on this issue.”

Pazienza is not a member of a sorority, and the e-mail was not sent out to the undergraduate student body at large. According to her Overheard post, she was later informed by a friend in a sorority that her assailant had been removed from Psi U.

“We now recognize that we should have done a better job addressing the greater University of Chicago community, and not just those involved in Panhellenic sororities,” Armstrong said in his letter.

The alleged assailant did not respond to a request for comment.

Thomas Fox, Psi U’s national executive director, said he was only recently informed of the two reported sexual assaults, but that he stands by the chapter’s decision to expel the two former fraternity members.

“We are only recently finding out about these incidents, and thank the survivors for speaking out about these events,” he said in an e-mail. “We are glad to see the alumni corporation acted swiftly once notified of these incidents and we will work with them and the undergraduate chapter to help ensure that Psi Upsilon is a benefit to the University of Chicago community.”

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