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University recognition officially removed from ATO following appeal process

Belmont has upheld its decision to remove university recognition from Alpha Tau Omega’s Iota Phi chapter, following an appeal filed by the chapter on Nov. 9.

“We reviewed the appeal, and the appellate officer determined that there was nothing in the review of the appeal that would change the outcome,” Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said. “So the outcome remains the same.”

Belmont’s original decision to remove university recognition from the fraternity was made on Nov. 6, following an investigation from the Division of Student Affairs that found the Iota Phi chapter was “in violation of several university policies related to community conduct and campus behavior for student organizations,” Burns said.

Burns added that multiple conduct violations from the chapter over the past several years factored into the decision as well.

“You can suggest that there’s only a single event that has precipitated the outcome, but really it’s an accumulation of things as well as the current activity,” Burns said.

But ATO nationals CEO Wynn Smiley said the chapter’s benefits to the Belmont and Nashville communities far outweigh those violations.

“I did have a memo drawn up of the chapter’s accomplishments on campus and in the community over the last three years, and they’ve been a very good campus and community partner,” Smiley said. “I know that the university mentioned three conduct violations since maybe 2010 of the chapter, but those were either disputed or — in my opinion — minor.”

Smiley also commented on the incident that he says sparked ATO’s investigation.

“The fact that the chapter had perhaps 40 people and some dates at Chili’s, and that some 21-year-olds had some beer with dinner is the animating incident that prompted this university action, to me, is somewhat amazing.”

With university recognition now officially removed, Iota Phi members can no longer wear ATO letters or hold meetings, events or fundraisers on campus, Burns said.

“It’s part of the whole package of loss of recognition, is that you cannot wear your letters on campus because it’s not a recognized organization.”

The next step for ATO, Smiley said, will be a meeting between nationals and university administration next week.

“I’m looking forward to talking with the university early next week and we’ll see where we go from there,” Smiley said.

Burns reiterated that the university’s decision was a difficult one to make to ensure student safety.

“It’s hard for people to accept and hard for people to hear, but we love our Belmont students, we love the men of ATO and want them to be successful as Belmont students,” Burns said. “We think the smartest and most responsible thing to do is to make sure that we are creating guidelines and processes where our students are safe and protected and not placed in dangerous or difficult situations.”

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This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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