Phi Delta Theta International has suspended a fraternity chapter at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, while it looks into allegations that some of its members sent inappropriate text messages to each other. Washburn itself confirmed to the Topeka Capital-Journal that it was investigating a possible risk-management issue.
The texts in question appeared in a group chat and reportedly involved women. One member joked about women deserving equal respect, but then said he was joking. One sexualized a 12-year-old girl. Another wrote, "Remember, women are objects."
Phi Delta Theta International, which suspended the fraternity Wednesday, said the texts were distressing. "We are very concerned by the messages reviewed thus far," associate executive vice president Sean Wagner said in a statement. "Phi Delta Theta is a values-based organization, and any behavior or statement contrary to those values is subject to significant action."
College spokesman Patrick Early said the office of student life had begun interviewing students about the incident. "We need to establish what happened, what violations of fraternity policy there were, if there were any violations of fraternity policy,” added Dustin Struble, the chapter's adviser.
Phi Delta Theta International was working with alumni officials and the university to review the texts, which WIBW reported were found out and then sent to local media.
The Washburn case follows several high-profile stories about fraternities' recent conduct. In early March, the University of Oklahoma severed ties with its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter after the publication of a video showing brothers singing a racist chant. A few weeks later, Pennsylvania State University suspended its Kappa Delta Rho chapter when it discovered a fraternity Facebook page with photos of partially nude, sometimes unconscious women.
Washburn University is a public college with about 7,000 students. Its Phi Delta Theta chapter, called Kansas Beta, was chartered in 1910. While the text message investigation plays out, students can live in the house but not host events.