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Johns Hopkins fraternity suspended over underage drinking amid rape allegations

A Johns Hopkins University fraternity has been placed on interim suspension for underage drinking, school officials said Wednesday, as police investigate a report that a 16-year-old girl was raped at the organization's off-campus house.

The girl told police she was assaulted by two men about 1:30 Sunday morning at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house in the 2900 block of St. Paul St. The alleged victim and the men are not believed to be affiliated with Hopkins.

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Law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case, said the victim was a 16-year-old girl from Baltimore County who had attended the party with her sister. The girl said she had been drinking and ended up in a bathroom with two men, the sources said.

Baltimore Police Department spokesman Detective Ruganzu Howard said Wednesday that the incident remains under investigation and no arrests have been made.

An email Wednesday from the university said that the suspension of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity stems from underage drinking and "other possible violations of university policy" at the party.

"We are in discussions about additional steps we can and must take in light of last weekend's reported incident in order to protect the safety and well-being of our students and our visitors," said the email sent by Hopkins Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin G. Shollenberger. "We remind all students and student groups that they are expected and required to abide by the law, by university policy and by the student code of conduct."

Johns Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the suspension means the fraternity is prohibited from "organized chapter activities, social or otherwise." The organization has not been asked to vacate the fraternity house, O'Shea said.

Brian Weghorst, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon national spokesman, said he could not comment on Wednesday's action because the investigation is continuing. He added, "However, I can tell you that the national organization maintains a comprehensive, stringent health and safety program for our members to follow."

Weghorst referred to the group's Fraternity Laws handbook, which says, "Although open parties may seem like fun, they pose a very significant exposure for potential problems. During an open party, it is difficult, if not impossible, to monitor who is entering and leaving the party. It is also difficult, if not impossible, to know what is going on throughout a location, chapter house or apartment when you have no idea who is there.

"When you have larger numbers of people who are involved in an event, it becomes more difficult to know what is going on, and you increase the possibility that unfortunate incidents such as date rape, alcohol poisoning, auto accidents, falls, fights and other injuries may occur," the handbook says.

The handbook points out that "the Fraternity doesn't own these houses or exercise any control over them."

The incident comes months after it was revealed that Hopkins failed to notify students of a rape reported at another fraternity house last year. Students filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, and the president of the university later said the failure to notify the community was "unacceptable."

This time, the university sent the notification within hours of the victim reporting the alleged assault.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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