By: Olivia Ali and Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez
The University of Nevada, Reno’s Office of Student Conduct placed the Pi Iota chapter of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity on probation until Jan. 22, 2022 following an investigation regarding a recovered songbook belonging to the fraternity being handed out prior to initiation.
The songbook depicted situations regarding sexual assault, drinking and violence. The investigation found the fraternity in violation of the 2018 University Relationship Agreement by “promoting activities related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, substance use and illegal alcohol,” according to a statement from Dean of Students Kimberly Thomas.
The violation caused the Office of Student Conduct to place sanctions on the fraternity, which included disciplinary probation until January 2022, recruitment restrictions until December 2019, an alcohol-free chapter facility until January 2021 and educational and discretionary sanctions.
The Assistant Dean of the Office of Student Conduct Kimberly Woods, who was responsible for conducting the investigation, explained that probation is a time period in which the organization is expected to comply with not only the sanctions placed upon them by the Office of Student Conduct but all state and local laws and all university policies as well.
Woods said the sanctions are a result of a direct violation of the university agreement the chapter had signed. In prohibiting Tau Kappa Epsilon from recruiting members until December 2019, Woods said it will promote self-awareness as a goal, rather than recruiting new members.
“As to that specific sanction the idea behind it is that it’s hopeful that in taking the time to limit themselves on recruiting, the chapter will focus inward and will want to work to better themselves and do some positive things with the university community and ultimately prepare themselves to be successful members of the university community when they’re allowed to recruit again,” Woods said.
Discretionary and educational sanctions are not specifically enumerated in the student code of conduct and are determined on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Student Conduct, according to Woods.
“So for this particular incident, the discretionary sanctions are that they have to work with [the Tau Kappa Epsilon] national office and prepare a plan to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the campus community and rebuild their reputation within the campus community and they have to present that plan to the Dean of Students,” Woods said.
In addition to the discretionary sanction, Tau Kappa Epsilon must also meet three more requirements underneath the educational sanction. Specifically, the fraternity organization must conduct one sexual harassment and sexual assault discussion or prevention program, one substance abuse presentation for chapter members and one anti-hazing workshop. Each program will occur once per semester during the entire probation period.
Failure to meet the stated sanctions or violation of any state or local laws or university policies will result in more severe consequences for the fraternity organization and ultimately a hearing with the Office of Student Conduct and the university.
The Office of Student Conduct allowed the fraternity ten days to accept the sanctions or appeal. The fraternity chose to accept the sanctions.
“After discussing the findings and recommended sanctions with their national office, the Pi Iota Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon chose to accept the findings and recommended sanctions and will work with their national office, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and the Office of Student Conduct to comply with all conditions of probation,” Thomas said in a statement. “Therefore, the conduct case against the chapter was closed.”
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life did not require the songbook or initiation materials to be turned in for review, according to Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Megan Pepper. This did not change in the 2019 Agreement.
“We require a comprehensive report of their new member education activities,” Pepper said. “So that includes location, dates, times, and descriptions of what it is that [Greek Life organizations] are doing during that new member education activity.”
The initiation rituals are not collected by the Office of FSL, due to them being “the parts that are secret,” according to Pepper. However, this may change in the future.
“What we currently require now is what we’ll continue with for the time being,” Pepper said. “That might be something we discuss as a result of the incident.”
Interfraternity Council President Jordan Wells released a statement on Saturday, Jan. 19 on behalf of the IFC, the council responsible for oversight of TKE, regarding the songbook and the investigation. The IFC did not condone the actions of the fraternity, according to the statement.
“First and foremost, the views expressed in the songbook do not reflect the ideals or beliefs of the council,” the statement said. “We rebuke anyone who supports sexual abuse and violence against others. The fraternities that we so proudly serve are great organizations and while TKE violated the higher standards that we hold ourselves to, we believe that with education and acceptance of their punishment they will be able to right this wrong.”
The statement also said the council will use the incident to better their council as a whole with the use of training and programs.
“It is up to us as Greeks to show that we do truly hold ourselves to a higher standard,” the statement said. “In pursuit of this belief, we are proud to announce that we will be providing our members with more programming that showcase who we are as a community, including training on toxic masculinity and improving our interfraternal bonds.”
The investigation regarding the songbook was not the only recent violation Tau Kappa Epsilon has faced. The fraternity was found in violation of the University Relationship Agreement multiple times in the last several years.
TKE violated the Student Code of Conduct alcohol policy in both 2011 and 2017. In 2011, they were placed on disciplinary probation and told to have an alcohol free chapter facility until May 2012, as well as given educational requirements. In 2017, the fraternity was only given educational requirements.
On Oct. 19, 2018, TKE was found to be in violation of the 2018 University Relationship Agreement for sponsoring activities that encourage alcohol use or illegal activity. They were given a written reprimand and educational requirements.
Olivia Ali and Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.