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ATO loses university recognition, expected to appeal

Following an investigation from the Division of Student Affairs, Belmont’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter is no longer recognized by the university and has less than 48 hours to appeal the decision.

“ATO leaders received a letter from the Office of the Dean of Students Monday, notifying them that we would be permanently removing their recognition from the university,” said Provost Dr. Thomas Burns.

ATO’s national CEO Wynn Smiley said the fraternity will appeal this decision.

Burns would not comment on the details of the investigation but said ATO was “found to be in violation of several university policies related to community conduct and campus behavior for student organizations.”

He added that ATO had “repeated violations of university policies over the last several years,” and those violations factored into the decision.

While Burns could not discuss details of the case, Smiley said the investigation revolved around a dinner at Chili’s Grill & Bar following a pinning ceremony in early October.

“I’m troubled by what the university said was the reason. The primary factor is a dinner at Chili’s,” Smiley said.

Those who attended the dinner and bought alcohol were of age, Smiley said.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “Just college kids happening to be having dinner — there were no complaints.”

Burns said he was aware that the decision against the fraternity would upset people, but that the university’s top priority is always student safety.

“I’m not going to say that the individuals in that organization are bad people or have done bad things, that’s not what I’m trying to imply,” Burns said. “I’m trying to say that what’s important is that it’s the university’s responsibility to make decisions for the health and safety of our students.”

“In doing so, we often will make decisions that people don’t like.”

Collier Roberts, a 2014 Belmont graduate who served as ATO’s recruitment chair, said the university’s decision is disappointing.

“Belmont is a special place, and a big reason I can say that is because of the opportunities that were available to me to get involved on campus — one of which being Greek life and more specifically, Alpha Tau Omega,” Collier said.

“Nobody is perfect. And in an organization of over 100 people, somebody is going to make an occasional mistake. However, the overall benefit that ATO brings to campus, the community and its members far outweighs what the university seems to be upset over.”

ATO is not the only Greek organization that has been under investigation recently.

Phi Kappa Tau — Belmont’s only other Interfraternity Council fraternity — was also under investigation this semester by the university, which was confirmed Friday by Phi Tau chapter president Austin Coleman.

That investigation focused on a small gathering of Phi Taus at a member’s house involving alcohol, he said.

The Phi Tau investigation was resolved when the university determined the gathering was not sponsored by the fraternity and everyone present was of legal drinking age, Coleman said.

Burns could not confirm or deny if any sororities have been under investigation this semester, but said there’s “a different attitude” between sororities and fraternities at Belmont.

“Sororities have been engaged in practices that were more consistent with what the university was asking them to do than the fraternities have been recently,” he said.

Burns added he has not yet reached out to other student organizations about how this decision will affect them.

If ATO is no longer recognized by Belmont, it would mean Belmont would have only one IFC fraternity, which, according to current Belmont policy, would be required to accept 100 percent of potential new members who meet university and recruitment standards.

This 100 percent bid policy caused issues in the spring, when ATO was barred from holding spring recruitment when the organization was suspended after a New Year’s Eve party.

Phi Tau did not agree to accept all potential new members, so spring recruitment was cancelled for both fraternities.

If ATO permanently loses university recognition, Phi Tau chapter president Austin Coleman hopes his fraternity will be able to work with the university to reach a compromise regarding the bid policy.

“Phi Tau will be willing to work with 100 percent acceptance, pending our nationals signing off on it, and we’re still waiting for Belmont and our nationals to reach an agreement on it,” said Coleman.

However, Coleman said his fraternity will wait to take action until the ATO decision is made final.

If ATO appeals, there will be a 15-day review before Belmont makes a final decision.

If ATO does not win its appeal and is no longer recognized by the university, it would affect the 72 active members and 28 pledges in the fraternity, which has been a part of campus life since 1999.

ATO pledges who have not yet been initiated would no longer be affiliated with the fraternity and could go through recruitment with Phi Tau in the spring.

“The members classified as pledges will have the ability to rush our fraternity next semester or at a later semester. But they will not automatically be taken into our process,” said Coleman.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Written by Bronte Lebo and Harrison Baldwin. 

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