F&M’s chapter of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity facing charges, hearing held

Photo courtesy of Alex Pinsk.

By Alex Pinsk || Editor-in-Chief

Ruby Van Dyk || Assistant Managing Editor

On Friday, January 31st an administrative hearing was held in regards to an ongoing investigation concerning the Phi Kappa Tau, Xi chapter at Franklin & Marshall College. The investigation began when two allegations were brought to the F&M administration and public safety over incidents that occurred in late September of 2019. Although an official decision has not been reached with respect to the outcome of the hearing, this article is meant to shed light on the span of events over the last year that resulted in probation, investigations, and two hearings, (administrative reviews) for the fraternity.

On April 26th, 2019, Phi Kappa Tau hosted an unauthorized event which involved a violation of F&M’s drug and alcohol policy as well as an incident involving a student falling off a fire escape. According to public safety this incident was classified as a “medical assist” due to “alcohol related—underage drinking.” The hearing regarding this unauthorized event was held on July 9th, and resulted in probation which according to the Office of Student Affairs is “the highest level of warning.” The conditions of the probation included that the house remain dry and that the fraternity participate in two significant educational experiences, one with a national specialist in organization culture and one with the national Phi Kappa Tau headquarters. In addition, the Xi chapter would be required to meet with a faculty or staff advisor monthly. Colette Shaw, Dean of Students noted that despite the conditions of the probation that were articulated in July to the fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau has not followed through in good faith.

According to public college records, on September 29th, 2019 a student reported: “seeing new chapter members dressed alike and lined up, referring to another student as “pledge master” in a tone denoting servitude. Alleged behavior occurred after approved new member activities were supposed to have ended” (this report was not anonymous). The next evening, September 30th, witnesses alleged: “Seeing new members performing embarrassing stunts and hearing chanting at chapter house. Public Safety alleged hearing members issuing commands to new members.” These two incidents resulted in a cease and desist order issued by the College to Phi Tau on October 1st. This meant that the chapter was required to be inactive, thus unable to accept new members, or participate in any official events until the investigation was closed. While subject to the cease and desist directive issued by the College, Phi Kappa Tau requested that the brothers be able to attend a retreat with their alumni and leaders from the Phi Kappa Tau national headquarters which Dean Shaw approved. During the retreat which occurred in early November, the chapter elected new leadership. 

Then, about two weeks ago on January 31st, the second administrative hearing was held. The charges stated that the chapter had: violated the substance free status of the house, failed to follow new member education policies and had not been transparent with public safety investigators. At the hearing both current and former members of the executive board of the fraternity were present. Dean Shaw noted that although each of the individual events that resulted in these charges may seem minor, the culture of the fraternity is also being investigated. 

When asked about the investigative process Dean Shaw highlighted that it was hard to get very clear responses from the chapter as a result of what she described as “a possible culture of distrusting the ‘administration.’” At the same time, the chapter’s alumni were extremely communicative and willing to cooperate with the administration. When asked for a statement for this article regarding the allegations, the President of Tau declined to comment. Following the hearing, those on the committee for the administrative review deliberated and discussed “likely outcomes given the information from that day,” according to Shaw. That being said, Dean Shaw made it clear that an official decision has not been reached concerning the outcome of the hearing. Shaw expects the decision will be delivered no sooner than next week.

Senior Alex Pinsk is The Editor-In-Chief, her email is mpinsk@fandm.edu

Junior Ruby Van Dyk is The Assistant Managing Editor, her email is rvandyk@fandm.edu 

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