Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Conduct Update: Alpha Tau Omega

Update: 5/6/2015
The University Committee on Discipline met on May 2, 2015 to adjudicate the charges below: 

  1. Respect for Others D1 (Hazing)
  2. Respect for Others (General)
  3. Respect for Community A1 (False Information)
  4. Respect for Community E1 (Failure to Comply)
  5. Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others)

The incident these charges were related to, is described below:
Several Lehigh students were arrested in Robbinsville NJ, for charges related to theft and vandalism. The students told police that this was a pledging activity and that they were pledging Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. During the University investigation, it became clear that at least one student was pledging the fraternity when not eligible, additionally, the chapter members provided false or misleading information to investigators.

Alpha Tau Omega pleaded responsible to all charges.  As a result of this behavior the following sanctions will be imposed:

Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity is placed on Disciplinary Deferred Dissolution from May 2, 2015 through May 13, 2016. During this period of time, the organization is on notice that any further violations of the Code of Conduct will result in the dissolution of the organization immediately without further review. Disciplinary Deferred Dissolution may not be imposed for longer than two regular semesters. If this sanction is imposed during a semester, it may be imposed for the remainder of that semester and two additional semesters.

Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity is placed on Disciplinary Probation effective June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017. Disciplinary probation is the conditional continuation of a group or organization for a specified period of time not to exceed four semesters. This status implies that any further violation of this Code of Conduct may result in dissolution, termination, or other authorized sanctions. Other sanctions may be imposed, including limitations on social activities, and additional requirements may be imposed as conditions for reinstatement of recognition in good standing.  

Member Review: The chapter is required to conduct a member review with the assistance and guidance of OFSA, The Alpha Tau Omega National Office, and the Alumni Board of Trustees. The following people must be reviewed in this process: all current (spring 2015) seniors, the Spring 2015 new members, and the Spring 2015 new member educator. A report of the outcome of this review is due to the OFSA no later than August 1, 2015.

Regarding the Spring 2015 New Members: If the spring 2015 new members are allowed to stay after the member review, they will be suspended from all fraternity activities and are required to go participate in the True Merit New Member process before being reinstated. In addition, these new members are not permitted to live at the house prior to reinstatement. 

Regarding the Spring 2015 Ineligible New Member: Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity is not permitted to give the student who was "ghost pledging" a bid at any time.

Chapter Education Plan: The Alumni Board of Trustees and the Chapter Executive Board must develop a plan for ensuring that all members (current and alumni) understand that the “old traditions” of Alpha Tau Omega must not return and that all members must uphold the new values and mission of the organization. This plan must be presented to OFSA by August 31, 2015.

Rationale for Findings:
Respect for Others D1 (Hazing) – Responsible
Clearly this was an unauthorized new member activity in which members of the senior class sent New Members out for “sandwiches” and in which at least 1 of 2 groups was told to steal signs

Respect for Others (General) – Responsible
New Members and Seniors disrespected the Lehigh University Community, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, Princeton University, and Robbinsville (and possibly Philadelphia) by stealing property. In general, acted in disrespectful manner by alluding police, lying to police, and agreeing as a group to lie to University investigators

Respect for Community E1 (Failure to Comply) – Responsible
The senior class planned an activity that occurred after 3/29 and after initiation as way for the new members to “earn” respect by bringing back some old traditions of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.

Respect for Community A1 (False Information) – Responsible
The submitted new member plan did not include this activity Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity did have a “ghost” pledge. Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity members lied to police and university investigators during the investigation. Several Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity members were not completely honest and forthcoming at this hearing.

Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others) – Responsible
Senior class encouraged new members to break the law and the code of conduct by getting the new members engage in a scavenger that included stealing property

Key Facts:
1. Chapter president pleaded responsible
2. Testimony of witnesses during the hearing
3. Police report
4. University investigation report
5. Alpha Tau Omega rosters

Rationale for Sanctions:
The panel was pleased that Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity took responsibility for the charges and that the outgoing president, was honest and forthcoming. He clearly understood the severity of the violations of the code by certain members of the fraternity. It is also apparent that most of the problems come from a small group of members and that many of the members have espoused and support the new values. It is our hope that the outgoing chapter president and local alumni members will work with the new undergraduate leadership to ensure that these values continue to be taught and supported by both active members and alumni. It should be noted, that the panel feels the actions were serious enough that without the leadership of the chapter president that we would have dissolved Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. It is our hope that all will gain a better understanding of the principles that the chapter president has attempted to instill over the last year.