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American U. investigates fraternity's offensive emails

Wednesday - 4/23/2014, 12:09am  ET

American University (Michelle Basch)
The emails and messages are supposedly from members of the Epsilon Iota fraternity, which lost its charter in 2001 but students say still exists. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON -- Emails and text messages that included talk about raping women and doing drugs, as well as racist, sexist and homophobic language, have prompted an investigation at American University.

Seventy pages of documents were anonymously sent to university leaders and others, along with a message urging AU to take action against the people who wrote them.

Campus newspaper The Eagle reports the conversations appear to be between members of Epsilon Iota, a fraternity that lost its charter in 2001 but students say still exists.

The scandal, dubbed "Fratergate," has prompted a petition campaign on Change.org by a group called "No More Silence." It calls for the authors of the emails to be disciplined or even expelled. It also demands that the university do more to prevent sexual assaults and to support victims.

University President Neil Kerwin wrote in a statement on Monday, "I assure you that the university is taking the information contained in the emails very seriously. We are taking swift and deliberate action to investigate every one of the alleged behaviors and will apply our student conduct code to its fullest extent."

Kerwin added, "We will be as transparent as we can be, but we will not jeopardize due process and the rights of individual privacy. We ask you to understand and respect the university's governance and legal responsibilities."

WTOP spoke with some American University students about the emails.

Emily, a senior, says she was made aware of EI years ago.

"During orientation freshman year, the people who were in charge of us, I think they were older students, said [to] stay away from EI, they're dangerous."

"Most of the student body I don't think were that surprised," says Julia, a junior. "It's still shocking content and really disturbing."

"Fundamentally, fraternities are going to do stupid (expletive). That's why they exist, and there's not much the school can do because it (EI) already does not technically exist," says Matteo, a sophomore.

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