Belmont stopped Phi Mu’s recruitment after finding out about an alleged code of conduct violation, but the sorority’s national office and Belmont have contradictory opinions on the nature of the violation and the university’s response to it.
This disrupted sorority recruitment on Saturday, when many women who were in the middle of the recruitment process dropped after learning Phi Mu would not be allowed to take new members until the fall.
This occurred after Belmont found out about a Phi Mu member’s 21st birthday party that a potential new member tried to attend, according to an email sent to Belmont chapter alumnae from Phi Mu National President Andie Kash.
“A potential new member arrived at the party and was asked to leave, because this — a PNM socializing with sorority members prior to recruitment — was a violation of recruitment rules,” Kash said. “The chapter’s membership director self-reported this situation to the College Panhellenic the next day.”
Belmont administrators declined to comment on the specifics of the violation.
“The University does not, and will not, share details of student conduct issues with parties other than the students involved in those conduct issues. We are working with the student leadership for the local Phi Mu chapter and are intent on caring for them throughout the process,” said Dr. John Delony, Belmont’s dean of students and associate provost.
It’s unclear how the disciplinary procedure will play out.
In a statement to the Vision on Monday, Phi Mu nationals said the chapter was suspended by Belmont for the rest of the semester, but is still in good standing with the national fraternity.
But Delony said the university took “emergency action” as outlined in the Bruin Guide, and he is already working with Phi Mu’s leadership to move forward.
“To say we’ve given them a final sanction, that’s inaccurate. We have suspended activities right now, a university suspension, until we can move forward,” Delony said. “I know it feels like I’m splitting hairs here, but it’s a pretty significant difference.”
What is not up for debate is Phi Mu’s displeasure with Belmont’s decision.
“I have reached out to the Dean of Students, Dr. Delony, to express our strong disappointment and disagreement with this decision,” Kash said in the email. “We disagree with how due process was not afforded to our members.”
Phi Mu Theta Chapter President Katy Pena did not respond to requests for comment.
“We have also engaged our legal counsel and have been in communication with the National Panhellenic Conference,” Kash said.
Phi Mu nationals also disagree with the university’s decision to characterize the party as a Phi Mu event, according to the email.
Though Delony wouldn’t go into specifics, he said, “I feel very confident that characterizing it as a group event was the right thing.”
That decision and the university’s action brought on an onslaught of emails and phone calls from friends, family, students and alumnae of Phi Mu.
“I am grateful that you have shared your concerns directly with me,” Delony wrote in a response email Monday night. “We are also aware that there are groups that are external to the University who disagree with our actions. We ask you to please recognize that the information that those external organizations have is incomplete and likely inaccurate.”
Delony also acknowledged that Belmont’s unwillingness to provide more details has allowed rumors to spread.
“I promise that I understand how frustrating it is for everyone — I am hearing new stories and rumors every day!” Delony said.
One of those rumors is that Belmont’s upper administration knew about the conduct violation in advance and waited until recruitment to take action, but Delony denied that.
“The first anyone knew there was a big deal was Saturday,” he said.
As for the women who wanted to join Phi Mu, they will have the option to go through continuous open bidding recruitment in the fall, Delony said.
“I’ve heard everywhere from 45 to 80 women left,” Delony said. “I was really proud of them for sticking together, and my goal is to keep them united throughout the spring semester and come up with ways we can support them.”
In spite of the many concerns he’s been hearing, Delony said he is first and foremost focused on helping the students affected.
“I saw some women working through some significant challenges and rallying across the board, and it was moving. It was pretty special. I hold Greek women at Belmont to the highest esteem.”
This article written by Bronte Lebo and Joe Bendekovic.