The neon “OPEN” sign above the door of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity’s house was abruptly turned off late Wednesday night.
The IU chapter of the fraternity was suspended by IU Wednesday, Oct. 7, and then revoked and closed by the Alpha Tau Omega national office Thursday, Oct. 8. These disciplinary actions came in response to credible video evidence of a 21-year-old member of the fraternity performing a sex act in front of other chapter members.
“The video is highly offensive and is antithetical to the values of Alpha Tau Omega,” said Wynn Smiley, chief executive officer for Alpha Tau Omega’s national office, in a statement.
According to the statement, the investigation conducted by the national fraternity found the sexual act seen in the video was performed by an initiated member of ATO, not a pledge, and about half of the chapter’s approximated 140 members were present. The women in the video were exotic dancers hired by one of the fraternity members, the statement said.
Though the fraternity member was an initiated member, hazing is still a factor to consider in the university’s investigation, Steve Veldkamp, assistant dean of students, said. The IU Police Department has also begun an active case to investigate harassment charges, Lt. Munroe of IUPD said.
The investigation that led the ATO national office to revoke the IU chapter was run separately from the investigation conducted by the university. The national office's decision is fully supported by the university, IU spokesperson Mark Land said.
“As we began our investigation, the national office was doing the same thing,” Land said. “They essentially have the authority to step in and pull out a fraternity whenever they want.”
The closing of the chapter is immediately effective and means all chapter activities must cease. The national fraternity will continue to work with the University on the investigation, the ATO national statement said.
“The national ATO office has closed the ATO chapter in Bloomington as a fraternity,” Land said. “It no longer exists."
A crowd of ATO fraternity brothers watched as their greek letters were taken off the house and a tarp was used to cover the letters on a concrete sign at the house Thursday afternoon.
This is not the first time the IU chapter of ATO has run into trouble. In April, the Indiana Daily Student ran a piece about the fraternity’s troubled past. In “Holding up a house,” then-ATO President Tommy Paslaski said he was working to repair the reputation of the house.
According to the story, the IU chapter made national news in 1992. At an initiation party, a freshman and his pledge brothers were forced to drink whiskey and wine from a funnel while blindfolded until they threw up. He ended up hospitalized in a coma, with a nearly fatal .48 blood alcohol content. He survived, but the fraternity was kicked off campus.
The University does not own the house that previously housed the chapter and therefore cannot make the decision on whether or not the ATO members will have to vacate the house on Third Street.
“We cannot force anybody out of that house,” Land said.
The house is owned by Delta Alpha of ATO, Inc., the board of directors and housing corporation of the IU chapter of Alpha Tau Omega.
“We don’t understand yet which direction we’re going in regards to the house," Kent Miller, president of the board of directors, said. "We have been having board meetings to discuss this very matter, and as of right now, we feel it is a little premature to be making that decision."
Because the fraternity has been closed, the university's investigation is now focused on whether the actions of individuals involved in the incident are violations of the student code of conduct, Land said.
“There cannot be an investigation of the fraternity because there is no fraternity now,” Land said.
The investigation is ongoing and is being led by the Office of Student Life and Learning and the Office of Student Ethics.
“The video was clearly an insight into the beliefs and attitudes of the former chapter,” Veldkamp said. “Given ATO’s track record, the campus, headquarters and even the rest of the fraternities and sororities not only condemn their actions but are making a statement that this is not acceptable Hoosier behavior.”
This statement was echoed by the rest of IU’s Greek organizations.
“The Indiana Fraternity and Sorority Community is extremely disappointed by the behaviors exhibited by the former Alpha Tau Omega chapter,” a statement from the Indiana Fraternity and Sorority Community said. “It is our duty to be leaders and not only educate our members, but work to solve our most pressing problems.”
The statement was signed by the Interfraternity Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Multicultural Greek Council and the Panhellenic Association.
“We as IFC do not condone sexual misconduct, and are working closely with the university on this matter,” Brian Singer, vice president of communications for the IU Interfraternity Council, said.
Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault released a statement regarding the alleged actions of the chapter as well. Many fraternities on IU’s campus, including the former ATO, are members of MARS.
MARS has spent the last week organizing their BannerUp campaign, meant to raise awareness of sexual assault initiatives at IU. This campaign included large banners hung on fraternity chapter houses. The banner on the ATO house has been taken down.
“The events surrounding the now former chapter of Alpha Tau Omega are extremely unfortunate, embarrassing and are completely counter to the values of MARS,” Jesse Scheinman, who oversees the MARS program, said. “But rather than get completely discouraged by the events, we are only going to use them to further the fight against sexual assault and violence, hazing and any other conduct that degrades human decency.”