USC withdraws recognition of Alpha Tau Omega

UPDATE, Nov. 17, 3:48 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comment from Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity CEO Wynn Smiley and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. Ainsley Carry.

USC will withdraw its recognition of the Zeta Beta chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity for five years according to a press release issued Monday by Interfraternity Council President Tanner Sandoval.

“The decision was made as a result of an extensive investigation conducted by the University’s Title IX office,” Sandoval said in the press release.

Alpha Tau Omega’s national CEO Wynn Smiley elaborated on the allegations of sexual assault levied against Alpha Tau Omega’s Zeta Beta chapter in a press release issued Monday.

In the press release, Smiley cited two separate incidents of alleged sexual assault in 2013 and 2014, stating that the Title IX office could not establish “a preponderance of the evidence that the member violated the [USC Student Code of Conduct] provisions.” In the 2014 case, however, the Title IX office did find that a member of Alpha Tau Omega violated the USC Student Code of Conduct, resulting in the university’s decision to withdraw recognition of the fraternity’s chapter at USC.

“We’re currently assessing all our options with the university, and trying to be fair with all our members,” Smiley said in an interview. “We believe that the process was filled with procedural inconsistencies, [and] that one person acted as judge, jury and executioner.”

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. Ainsley Carry responded to Smiley’s allegations by citing that the Title IX investigation process has remained unchanged through both the 2013 and 2014 incidents.

“That is not true … There is a Title IX investigation. The Title IX coordinator oversees [the] outcome and then that outcome goes to an appeals panel, called the Student Behavior Appeals Panel,” Carry said. “The appeals panel is made up of three individuals: two faculty members and one staff member, that review all of the information collected and they render the information which comes to the Vice President for Student Affairs for a thorough review of all the recommendations and the finalization of the decision. There are multiple parties involved in this process.”

Smiley also said any questions of the housing accommodations for ATO house residents for the remainder of the semester were “premature.” Carry, however, stated that a process for providing housing for members of the fraternity is already underway.

“There’s a transition plan being worked out with the ATO leadership here, with our student leaders and our fraternity and sorority leadership office and Dr. Monique Allard,” Carry said. “I’m not sure what the national office is aware of or not aware of on the ground, but we’re working with the student leadership and the advisor of the organization to make sure there’s a smooth process for their transition.”

The CEO of Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity went on to state in his press release that USC was punishing an entire group for the actions of a single student.

“USC is focusing its considerable and direct punitive power at nearly 110 of its own students who are members of the ATO chapter,” Smiley said in the press release. “At least 109 of the students had no involvement with the allegations and yet are being severely punished by the University.”

Without making reference to Smiley’s statements specifically, Carry justified the University’s procedures, stating that allegations of sexual misconduct have an impact beyond the individuals involved.

“One person could violate a policy where multiple people have to pay for it,” Carry said. “If individual members violate the code, it has an impact on everyone. It has an impact on our entire Greek system, not just a house … With regard to that particular incident, [Smiley] has the right to make that allegation and be concerned about that, but it’s not uncommon for individual misconduct to impact many people.”