Tau Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Tau chapter, has been on Drexel’s campus for 77 years and is the university’s longest-standing fraternity.
In January, when the chapter initiated its 2,000th member, President John A. Fry spoke at the ceremony. According to the TKE Alpha-Tau facebook page, in his speech, Fry praised the chapter for being “one of Drexel’s most prestigious organizations.” He told the new initiates and alumni that they had set themselves apart for being “the only fraternity at Drexel that’s independently run and self-managed … and … most notably … the only one that’s never been kicked off campus.”
As of May 23, that is no longer the case.
The chapter was awarded Top Teke by the national organization 17 times, often in consecutive years.
In the spring of 2014, the Alpha Tau chapter was ranked seventh in the nation in the national organization’s quarterly magazine, “Teke.” At least one TKE alumnus sits on Drexel’s Board of Trustees and has made financial gifts to both the chapter and the University in recent years.
In May 2014, two members of TKE’s Drexel chapter were arrested for dealing cocaine. Within a week, another arrest was made at the fraternity’s house for disorderly conduct. TKE was put on suspension May 23, 2014 – their second suspension in two years. According to a representative of the TKE alumni who requested his name be withheld, the suspension was due to the drug offenses.
By June, the fraternity’s alumni had stepped in with the support of the university, reducing the chapter’s membership from 102 active undergrads to 43 in what the representative of the TKE alumni called “the purge.” The alumni board was restructured, resulting in new positions being added and some members leaving.
In February of 2014, three months before the purge, two rapes were alleged to have occurred inside the TKE house. Public safety logs indicate that the allegations were under investigation by the Drexel Police Department, but the TKE alumni representative said that the allegations were never brought to the alumni’s attention and were not part of the discussions that led to the membership purge and board restructuring.
By all accounts, the fraternity has deep roots on this campus. It is those deep roots that allowed the chapter to survive the events of 2014. “Having a strong base of supportive alumni is necessary for any fraternity or sorority who is charged with a conduct violation. Coming back from a violation is difficult no matter what, but without that support, the organization has very little chance for success,” said a former fraternity advisor who is known to The Triangle.
For a few years, the purge seemed to have had the intended effect. According to the representative of the TKE alumni, the chapter was placed on a five-year deferred suspension as a result of the drug offenses, defined by the Drexel Office of Student Life as a “final warning.”
The representative of the TKE alumni stated that everyone in the chapter knew that there was “no more room for error” as they began to rebuild their reputation within the Drexel community. New members were initiated into the chapter, eventually bringing the organization’s membership back up to about 75 active members at the beginning of this term.
About one month ago, almost exactly three years after the 2014 incidents, an alleged rape was reported at the TKE house. TKE’s alumni board was notified. Within a week, another rape was reported, again at the TKE house. One incident resulted in a formal complaint when the victim decided to move forward with an Office of Equality and Diversity investigation; the other is under review by the office, but there is no investigation at this time, according to Michele Rovinsky-Mayer, associate vice president of the OED.
On May 5, late on a Friday afternoon, Drexel’s Police Department issued what is known as a timely warning — a notification required by the federal Clery Act if the university determines that there is an ongoing threat to the community. Patterns of incidents may merit warnings to the student body, according to the associate director of operations for Drexel Public Safety, Maurizio DeLisi. Two alleged rapes within a week in the same location constituted a pattern.
Drexel University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Misconduct Policy states: “Where the report of sexual misconduct poses an ongoing risk of harm to the safety or the well-being of an individual or members of the campus community, the University may place an individual or organization on interim suspension …”
TKE was placed on interim suspension for the third time in four years. As in 2014, the suspension was formally handed down not as a result of the alleged rapes, but, in this case, because of alcohol policy violations associated with two unregistered parties at the fraternity house, according to a statement from the university and official documents.
During the interim suspension, on May 18, another rape was reported to the Drexel Police Department. The rape was alleged to have occurred at the TKE house sometime during fall term 2016. The incident is currently pending investigation by the Office of Equality and Diversity, according to Drexel Public Safety’s public log.
The fraternity elected to plead in violation of the conduct offenses that placed them on interim suspension, but asked the Drexel University Conduct Board to allow them to continue operations on campus, citing the chapter’s “emphasis on philanthropy” and their internal decision to remove the Executive Council from their roles and institute a dry house policy, according to a letter from the chapter.
On May 23, TKE was officially suspended from campus for five years as a result of the alcohol policy violations. The representative of the TKE alumni said that the organization will appeal the university’s choice of sanction.
“It’s regretful that we’re here, [given] the really, really good and strong relationship we had with Drexel just a few short weeks or months ago,” the representative said.
If the organization’s appeal is not successful, members will vacate the house in the coming weeks, and negotiations about ownership and management of the property will take place between the fraternity and the university. According to the alumni representative, there have not yet been discussions about what will happen to the standing of the members within the national fraternity – whether they will become alumni or be stripped of their membership.
Pending appeal, TKE will not be able to carry on operations on Drexel’s campus for the next five years, but the organization may petition to be re-recognized in 2022. It is unclear at this time whether the rape allegations against members of the fraternity have future implications for the organization.