Rehearing for Phi Kappa Tau Overturns Four Year Suspension, Chapter No Longer Found Responsible for Hazing

By Ruby Van Dyk || Editor-in-Chief & Daniel Robillard || Investigative Reporter 

On Friday October 16th, Members of the Xi Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau on Franklin and Marshall’s Campus were notified by Interim Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, Deb Moriarty, that as a result of their rehearing with the Committee on Student Conduct, they would be allowed to apply to return to campus as early as August 2021. The fraternity’s case was referred to the Committee on Student Conduct for a rehearing by the Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, Margaret Hazlett, following an appeal submitted by the organization.  

The outcome was a reversal of the College’s original decision this past spring, which suspended the fraternity for four years after finding that its members had violated the College’s hazing policies, among other violations. The original decision in April had been made by Dean of Students, Colette Shaw, in consultation with a group that consisted of one faculty member, one representative from the student conduct committee, as well as one representative from the Inter-Fraternity Council. Following the April decision, Shaw told the College Reporter that the decision was a result of a holistic assessment of the Fraternity: “There were some real concerns about their culture, their reliance on punitive structures to deal with things, and a lack of accountability from both the local chapter and the national headquarters.” 

But as a result of the rehearing, which began on October 7, the Committee on Student Conduct found that the eyewitness testimony and F&M Department of Public safety official reports that the original decision had been based on was not evidence that the fraternity’s members had engaged in behavior that would meet the College’s definition of hazing or endangering behavior, according to the letter Moriarty, sent to members of Phi Kappa Tau on Friday. 

However, the Committee did find that the fraternity was responsible for violations of the College’s fraternity membership policy, dishonest behavior, and failure to comply with a reasonable request. 

“We are pleased to hear the College’s new decision following our hearing and look forward to restarting operations in August while working closely with our National Headquarters, our alumni and the F&M community” President of Phi Tau, Alex Akpata, told The College Reporter. 

The original suspension was a result of incidents that occurred in the fall of 2019. According to Hazing Reports found on F&M’s website, 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, different witnesses alleged: “Seeing new members performing embarrassing stunts and hearing chanting at chapter house. Public Safety alleged hearing members issuing commands to new members.” Including one member saying: “When I tell you to do something, you fucking do it.” These two incidents resulted in a cease and desist order issued by the College to Phi Kappa Tau on October 1st. The chapter was required to remain inactive until the investigation and hearings were closed and they were suspended. 

The new decision was made partially on the basis that the evidence presented did not fulfill the college’s definition of hazing. Colette Shaw, Dean of Students, who had delivered the original decision to suspend the fraternity in April, expressed her frustration over the fraternity’s dishonesty and lack of transparency during the initial investigative process this spring.“I’ll go to my grave not knowing what happened.” Shaw told the Reporter on Friday. 

Although the chapter will no longer be suspended for four years, a separate one year suspension is in place as of September 16th, 2020. The one year suspension is a result of an incident that occurred on May 11th, 2020 in which the fraternity held a large gathering that included non-members in their house basement, during the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, members were not permitted inside the house as a result of the original four year suspension which had been decided about a month prior. The one year suspension is effective through May 2021. 

In order for the chapter to return to campus, they will have to be approved by the College’s Interfraternity Council. President of IFC, Mark Marotta, declined to comment at this time.

Dean Moriarty and Nakia Perry Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, did not respond to requests for comment.

Senior Ruby Van Dyk is Editor-in-Chief her email is rvandyk@fandm.edu.

Junior Daniel Robillard is an Investigative Reporter his email is drobilla@fandm.edu.

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