Fraternity cleared of allegations

The alleged incident outside Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity in late August was reported to be false last week. Photo by Nick Nelson/ The Dakota Student

The Grand Forks County State’s Attorney Office announced last week that the assault alleged by Haaken Gisvold outside of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at the end of August had been fabricated.

“As a result of this comprehensive investigation, it was determined that Mr. Gisvold was not the victim of assaultive behavior or other victimization. Investigators were sensitive to any questions relating to sexual orientation, and did not find victimization in that regard,” the press release from the state’s attorney general’s office stated.

According to the release, approximately 150 people who were near the fraternity the night of Aug. 29 to the early morning of Aug. 30 had been interviewed as part of the investigation, and the police’s findings were that no one had assaulted Gisvold outside of Lambda Chi Alpha as he had claimed. The only incidence of physical confrontation reported by witnesses was initiated by Gisvold.

The news release issued stated that there was no “derogatory or discriminatory action” taken by members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

The police investigation into the incident has been ongoing throughout September and into the beginning of October.  Lambda Chi Alpha External Vice President Patrick Sewich described the negative pressure on the fraternity during the time of the investigation during an interview with the Dakota Student. “It brought us down, we had countless talks about it,”  Sewich said.

Sewich, who is a junior at UND, also described the difficulty of constantly reading media reports that were framed negatively. “The hardest part for us was when we were sitting back and all the media was just hating on us, and there were just so many horrible articles coming out,” Sewich said. “It’s said that you’re innocent until proven guilty, but right now, it definitely feels like we’re guilty until we’re proven innocent.”

However, Sewich noted that members of the fraternity found support from members of the community during the investigation, despite some of the negative attention from the incident. “The media put it in a way where they were already saying we were guilty, but just all the support we got from the Greek community was amazing,” Sewich said. “The way the (Grand Forks) community reacted to us was definitely helpful.”

Lambda Chi Alpha was only allowed to conduct “limited operations” during a portion of the time the incident was under investigation. When a fraternity is under limited operations, it can not conduct many of the organization’s activities, including official fraternity meetings, community activities and recruitment.

The national chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha also conducted an independent investigation into the incident in order to further evaluate the situation and determine when the fraternity should resume normal operations.

Lambda Chi Alpha has resumed operating in their normal capacity. They held a food drive two weeks ago, participated in rush week for fall recruitment and have other upcoming community and philanthropic events in the near future.

Sewich went on to describe the steps that Lambda Chi Alpha takes to prevent incidents like this from happening and dealing with them if they happen to occur. “We aren’t scared of UPD (University Police Department). UPD is there to help us. When we saw an altercation we weren’t afraid to call the police.” Sewich said, referring to Lambda Chi Alpha President Joe Price calling the police the night of the incident in order to get the situation under control.

Lambda Chi Alpha, like other fraternities on campus, have fraternity members act as sober monitors at the house in the evenings to supervise activities occurring at the house and provide rides home. The house also requires guests to sign in upon entering. Each fraternity has its own set of guidelines and policies to promote safety at events held at their locations.

This cooperative relationship between the police and the fraternity was reflected in the state’s attorney’s press release as well. “Said members were fully cooperative in the investigation of this matter, and members of that Fraternity initiated contact with law enforcement on the morning of August as a result of these activities which had taken place outside their House,” the release stated.

The state’s attorney’s office also noted in the release that although the Grand Forks Police Department forwarded an affidavit alleging that Gisvold provided false information to police, Gisvold will not be prosecuted for the alleged offense.

UND issued a campus wide email on Oct. 14 echoing the findings of the state’s attorney general. The university announced that they are waiting for the entire police report to be released so that it can review the information according to federal Title IX guidelines and the UND Code of Student Life.

Sean Cleary is the news editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]