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Phi Kappa Tau fraternity reinstated as student organization

Samuel Colmar
The Phi Kappa Tau building on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Pennsylvania Court in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

After being revoked as a University of Kentucky student organization for approximately nine months, the Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity was reinstated on Dec. 31, 2023.

The fraternity had violated UK Code of Student Conduct policies, including the misuse of alcohol and additional violations of law or other UK policies, according to documents the Kentucky Kernel received from an open records request.

PKT hosted an unregistered event known as a “fifths and cuffs” party at an off-campus house on Oct. 13, 2022.

According to records, fraternity members and non-members attended the event and were tasked with finishing a fifth of liquor while being tied together at their wrists, some participants being underage. 

Attendees paid for and brought their own alcohol, some examples provided being “Malibu and Fireball,” in addition to some members who did not participate that “may have also brought beer,” according to records.

No attendees required emergency care, but some got sick. Once those got sick, they were cut from their “cuffs,” according to documents provided.

According to records, on Jan. 10 2023, the chapter was placed on interim operational suspension status by the university’s conduct office where they were prohibited from “hosting or participating in any Fraternity activities.”

Shortly after, on Jan. 20, 2023, Office of Student Conduct Associate Director Mike Brown met with former PKT president Caleb Tackett in an informal meeting where he accepted the policy violations but requested for a formal hearing that would determine a new restorative action plan.

According to records, Tackett rejected the Hearing Board’s proposed restorative plan that included a two-year suspension. The suspension was repeatedly being referred to as a “death sentence” and with it being only alcohol related offenses did not permit the proposed length, PKT members said.

Despite their argument, records from Feb. 14, 2023 said the Hearing Board disagreed and PKT “failed to take into consideration their prior violations and the fact they were already in the process of completing other restorative actions for those violations … PKT with blatant disregard, continued to engage in behaviors that were clearly violations of the code of conduct.”

Records show the fraternity was serving prior conduct violations related to alcohol misuse at the time of the new violation, those dating as early as September 2021, January 2022, August 2022 and September 2022. 

During the fraternity’s earlier probation periods, members were tasked with completing set restorative actions, such as social restriction, conduct probation and social suspension, according to provided documents.

In result, Hearing Board members decided the revocation period was necessary in order for them to make internal improvements for a semester before recruiting new members.

The University Appeals Board finalized the following restorative actions on March 8, 2023: 

  • Student organization revocation from Feb. 21, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023
  • No new member recruiting until the fall 2024 semester, beginning Feb. 21, 2023 to May 31, 2024
  • A new Board of Governors/Advisory Board
  • Amend chapter bylaws
  • Completion of a fraternity audit, including membership review by their national organization, a “Building Men of Character Retreat”
  • Alumni letters to “better understand who is joining the chapter”
  • Once a month on campus visits with executive office staff
  • Implementation of a new alcohol education program
  • Check-ins with the UK student conduct office and office of fraternity sorority life
  • 200 hours of community service

Despite being revoked as a student organization, members who were previously living in the on-campus fraternity house were granted permission to stay during the duration of the nine month suspension, according to records.

However, documents show the fraternity was not allowed “to display fraternity letters on any external facilities,” as to abide by their housing contracts and university ground lease until the end of the revocation period.

Current PKT president Michael Wheeler told the Kentucky Kernel that the fraternity is focused on making said improvements and “being the best version of Phi Kappa Tau going forward.”

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Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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