Police ‘aided fraternity members’ in attack on LGBTQ+ residence

Pennsylvania liberal arts college promises external investigation of incident

May 18, 2021
Bucknell University

Bucknell University has promised an independent investigation, including of its police force, after a crowd of ex-fraternity members besieged a group of LGBTQ+ students living in their former residence.

An estimated 20 students believed to be affiliated with the banned Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity surrounded Fran’s House, also known as Tower House, banging on doors and windows on 14 May, and demanding that the building be surrendered to them, according to students inside at the time.

It was a “horrific incident”, Bucknell’s president, John Bravman, and other top university officials said in a statement condemning the incident and announcing a review of the matter by outside investigators. Bucknell is a private liberal arts college in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Professor Bravman made particular note of the campus’ police officers, some of whom were reported to have arrived at the scene and, rather than comfort the victims, allied themselves with the attackers.

The police, known by the university as “public safety officers”, were described as sharing stories with the attackers of their own college experiences and offering to help them eventually regain use of the building.

“Bucknell Public Safety’s response to the incident was lacking in myriad ways,” Professor Bravman and his team said in their response.

Fraternities and sororities at US colleges and universities are increasingly seen as operating counter to the academic and social missions of many institutions, and Bucknell has one of the biggest such populations, accounting for a third of the student body.

Police in the US – in campus settings and beyond – also are facing scrutiny for siding in instances with violent extremists on the political right. The most notable recent example is the January assault on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob while many police stood aside, though students at numerous campuses have complained of similar types of enforcement biases.

Tau Kappa Epsilon was banned from Bucknell two years ago after complaints of excessive alcohol use and hazing incidents that included members wearing dog shock collars and having darts thrown at them.

Fran’s House is part of a network of housing options for Bucknell students of particular backgrounds and interests.

Its residents, in a written statement, offered thanks for expressions of support they have received since the attack, and demanded that the police and others be held accountable.

“What happened to this house is abhorrent,” the Fran’s House residents said. “Never again should someone feel entitled to come to our home and say it’s ‘their house and not ours’.”

Professor Bravman and his team promised at least two outside investigations – one looking at the overall incident and the other aimed specifically at the police.

The overall review will be completed “as soon as possible”, the university leaders said. “Based on the findings of this external review, appropriate consequences for the students’ behaviour will be swiftly determined and implemented.”


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