Phi Kappa Tau suspended from campus for four years, found responsible for hazing amongst other offenses

By Alex Pinsk || Editor-in-Chief & Ruby Van Dyk ||Assistant Managing Editor

The Xi Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity has been suspended from F&M’s campus for four years after being found responsible for hazing its members and violating other campus policies. The Xi Chapter has been on campus since 1921. 

The suspension is effective immediately. The Fraternity will not be eligible to apply to return to F&M until the fall of 2024. Residents of the chapter house will move out at the end of the semester in accordance with PA and College move-out guidelines in light of coronavirus. 

The suspension came after multiple months of hearings and meetings with the Fraternity. The first hearing occurred on January 31st, 2020. The official decision to suspend the Phi Tau was made on Friday, April 24th, 2020. The investigation originally began when two allegations were brought to the F&M administration and public safety over incidents that occurred in late September of 2019. 

As stated in a previous College Reporter article, prior to the January 31st administrative hearing, the Fraternity had been placed on probation following a hearing that took place over the past summer, on July 9th, 2019. The July 9th hearing had been a result of an unauthorized event hosted by the Fraternity in the spring of 2019 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.”

Then, in January 2020 a charge letter was delivered to the Chapter which outlined charges that were the result of two incidents that had been reported to the college and public safety in September of 2019. 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, 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.” These two incidents resulted in a cease and desist order issued by the College to Phi Tau on October 1st. The chapter was required to remain inactive until the investigation was closed, which would end up persisting through the remainder of the school year.

Phi Kappa Tau was charged with potentially being in violation of the following:

  • Hazing Policy 
  • Failure to Comply with Reasonable Request 
  • College Fraternity Membership Policy
  • Dishonest Behavior 
  • Endangering Behavior

After a long semester of hearings and meetings with the Dean of Students and the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, this past Friday Phi Kappa Tau was found responsible for all of the charges outlined in the original charge letter. 

The decision was made by the Dean of Students, Colette Shaw, along with a committee that consisted of one faculty member, one representative from the student conduct committee, as well as one representative from the Inter-Fraternity Council. At the final hearing Phi Kappa Tau’s President and Vice President were present as well as four alumni of the Chapter and one national representative. The committee did not re-hear the case but instead granted the Chapter the opportunity to present any new information that might be relevant to the charges the Chapter was facing. According to Dean Shaw, “the Chapter did not offer any new factual information.” 

During the hearing, the IFC representative present asked the Fraternity questions and raised concerns on behalf of IFC including questions about how the Fraternity planned to rebuild trust with the College and fellow Fraternity chapters if they were allowed to remain on campus. According to Shaw, the answers Phi Kappa Tau provided did not meet the standard that the IFC organization had required in order to be convincing. 

According to Shaw 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, she noted that many of the young leaders including the new Chapter President and Vice President of the Fraternity showed promise and commitment and that much of the problem lay within the Chapter’s senior members and their perpetuation of an insular culture—which was a recurring problem each year. That being said, Shaw emphasized in the letter delivering the decision to the Fraternity that although the group showed credibility in their interest in leadership building, there was a troubling lack of self-awareness of the Chapter’s culture. In other words, while Phi Tau members gladly offered plans for the future success and accountability of the organization, they failed to acknowledge how their past—namely incidents of hazing and failure to comply with sanctions that had been put in place to help them grow—perpetuated the aforementioned “us versus them” culture extant in the Fraternity. Dean Shaw described their response as a sort of “tone-deafness” to community concerns about their reputation and behavior. They talked a considerable amount about the “future” but did not take responsibility for past actions. 

Shaw noted that unlike the Chi Phi Fraternity last year whose alumni had not been an active participant in promoting chapter values and even contributed to violations that resulted in the charges the chapter was facing, the alumni of Phi Kappa Tau were extremely cooperative throughout the investigation, follow-up, and hearing processes. 

The suspension means that all current members of the organization will now become Phi Kappa Tau alumni, and, from now on, will be prohibited from being active Phi Kappa Tau members. 

The President of Phi Kappa Tau declined to comment. 

With the recent suspension of Chi Phi last year, and now Phi Kappa Tau, only four fraternities remain on Franklin & Marshall’s campus. It is undeniable that Phi Kappa Tau played a large role in the social scene at the College, and the Organization’s absence will be palpable. That being said, the President of IFC, Mark Marotta said he remains confident in the future of fraternity life at F&M: “It is disappointing that the greek community has become smaller in the number of chapters active on campus. I am confident the chapters that remain active will continue to work towards stimulating a more engaging, holistic presence on campus, and growing the number of individuals interested in joining a fraternity.” 

Phi Kappa Tau has the right to appeal this decision. If the outcome is upheld and the Fraternity chooses to apply to return to campus, the earliest it is allowed to do so is fall 2024, and the chapter would have to comply with the following conditions: 

  • The first new member recruitment and education process would be administered by Phi Kappa Tau’s national headquarters and would require the active involvement of chapter advisors who are alumni from institutions other than Franklin & Marshall.
  • Phi Kappa Tau national headquarters will commit to on-site visits every semester for at least two years. 
  • If the chapter intends to have a house for residents, a successful appeal must include the assignment of a college-approved live-in house manager

It is the College’s hope that the suspension will allow for a cultural reset for the chapter. “The hope is that this decision will place Phi Kappa Tau in a position to come back stronger and with a brighter future with the help of college administration and their dedicated alumni. The conditions stated for their return are to help ensure we do not end up in a similar situation, but also to guarantee that there is a healthy relationship between undergrads, alumni, their nationals, and the college,” said Nakiya Perry, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“I want good things for these students,” said Dean Shaw, in reference to the members of Phi Kappa Tau, I want them to be “thriving citizens,” and I want “learning experiences from them as leaders.” While Dean Shaw had confidence in individual Fraternity members, she and the committee was not so confident in the culture of Phi Kappa Tau as a whole. 

It seemed clear to those involved in the decision to suspend the Fraternity that the Organization had failed to acknowledge that building a better future for Phi Kappa Tau required taking responsibility for its past actions. 

Photo courtesy of Alex Pinsk.

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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