No further action against Phi Tau following anonymous email allegations
An anonymous email sent to Belmont officials Saturday night criticized Belmont’s treatment of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and called out Phi Kappa Tau for holding a party where an under-aged member drank alcohol.
The email from “Jane Doe” was sent to the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, members of the upper administration and the Vision’s faculty adviser, and contained a video allegedly showing Phi Tau members drinking beer. The email also identified four Phi Tau members by name.
The Office of Student Organizations and Activities investigated the video and met with Phi Tau’s leadership, but Belmont ultimately decided not to pursue any further action, said Provost and acting Dean of Students Dr. Thomas Burns.
“It seemed like an odd thing to receive,” he said. “I’ve tried to watch the video several times, and I don’t see anything. I can’t tell who the people are in the video, first of all, which is a problem, and then I can’t tell what the event is, so I thought it was a bit strange.”
Phi Tau learned about the Jane Doe email Sunday evening, and on Monday the chapter’s leadership met with Assistant Director of Student Organizations and Activities Sarah Rigsby.
“It was simple information gathering. It lasted for no more than 30 minutes,” said Phi Tau President Joseph Smith. “I was happy to work with them on any questions they had.”
Smith received confirmation Monday night that the university was not planning to go forward with any further investigation into the video, he said.
Doe sent the video and message in response to an earlier email from the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, which addressed T-shirts made with the Chili’s logo and ATO letters. According to the first email, former ATO members and other Belmont students planned to wear those T-shirts to the homecoming basketball game on Saturday.
“We want to send a reminder that ATO letters are not allowed to be worn on our campus and anyone who does wear this shirt on Saturday will be reported to the Office of Community Accountability and then escorted out of the game,” the first email said.
Because ATO is no longer a recognized student organization, ATO letters cannot be worn on campus. Some students had recently claimed they didn’t know about this rule, so the email was intended to inform them, Burns said.
But Doe said the university’s email demonstrated disrespect toward its students and criticized its tone. Doe also expressed frustration over the university’s removal of ATO’s recognition last November.
“As most people, including members of the other fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, think the ruling against Alpha Tau Omega was absurd, I can no longer hold my tongue,” Doe wrote.
Belmont never confirmed the exact reasons for ATO’s loss of recognition, but multiple conduct violations from ATO over several years factored into the university’s decision to remove ATO’s recognition, Burns said.
ATO’s national CEO Winn Smiley said the inciting incident around the investigation was a dinner at Chili’s Grill & Bar.
Everyone who bought alcohol at the dinner was over 21, Smiley said.
If drinking at organizational events is not allowed, then the university should take action against Phi Tau as well, Doe argued in the email.
“This is the second known party brought to Belmont’s attention this year alone involving members of PKT,” Doe wrote.
The first incident occurred this fall, when Belmont investigated Phi Tau for a gathering at a member’s house, said former Phi Tau President Austin Coleman.
The investigation ended when the university determined the gathering was not a fraternity-sponsored event and everyone present was of legal drinking age, Coleman said.
Despite the focus on ATO in the Jane Doe email, former ATO President Patrick Williamson said he knows nothing about it.
“I have zero knowledge of any accusations against Phi Tau or ATO’s involvement or lack thereof in that,” he wrote in a text.
Phi Tau’s leadership said they don’t know who sent the Jane Doe email either. They also don’t know if ATO was involved, Smith said.
“I have no way of knowing, and out of respect for them I can’t say. It would just be purely speculation,” Smith said.
Phi Tau’s spring recruitment will continue as scheduled, starting with an informational meeting Thursday night.