WASHINGTON - American University has expelled 18 students and placed another on disciplinary probation for being involved in an underground fraternity. The school says they participated in violence, hazing, underage drinking and other prohibited conduct.
The students were part of an unrecognized student group known as Epsilon Iota. The group had been recognized back in 2000 as a chapter for the national fraternity Alpha Tau Omega. However, after several violations and conduct charges filed against them, Epsilon Iota surrendered its charter to the fraternity and they were no longer recognized by the university in 2001.
Despite this, over recent years, American University says it has received reports that members of Epsilon Iota were engaging in assault, rape, underage drinking and illicit drug use at primarily off-campus locations.
"This group has perpetuated and systematically presented a threat to the safety and well-being of our students," said Fanta Aw, American University interim vice president of Campus Life. "This should send a strong message to anyone involved with groups engaged in activities prohibited by the Conduct Code."
The university felt this group was such a threat that new students are warned about them during orientation and the group is even mentioned in the campus welcome packet.
American University students we spoke with say the group was known for wild parties, and that members, at least in recent years, have been wealthy international students.
"They were just known as these guys who threw crazy parties and they were just known as the place to be if you want to have a good time," said one female student.
She added, "I just think it was probably a long time coming. Why just not reorganize as a legal frat? I don't know what they were up to, but there is definitely some sketchiness surrounding it."
"The fact they were able to get 18 people out of this university who were part of it is definitely commendable, and I applaud the university for doing that and I hope they are able to get all of the members who are currently there out of campus," another student said.
None of the students expelled have been identified and the university says disciplinary records are confidential.