An Open Letter to the Belmont Community
Belmont is our home. Like you, we chose it because of its welcoming community and ability to inspire us to engage and transform the world. As fraternity members, we are fortunate to have found a community within the larger university. Our fraternity experience is home to men of diverse backgrounds, and it has provided us valuable leadership, academic and personal growth opportunities through our brotherhood. It has allowed us to give back to the Belmont and Nashville communities in unique ways, through service and engagement.
Fellow Bruins, despite these positive contributions, we are facing very difficult choices that will shape how fraternities fit in the Belmont community, and we would argue, how basic student rights are respected here.
In a unilateral decision with little or no student input, the administration has mandated that 100 percent of the students who attend Interfraternity Council fraternity or Panhellenic Council sorority recruitment events and meet a minimum academic standard must be guaranteed an invitation to join.
On the surface, this might sound reasonable and inclusive, but when you take a closer look at this policy, it is deeply concerning and problematic for several reasons — for both fraternities and for all Belmont students and faculty.
While academic performance and attendance are often positive indicators of commitment, the policy ignores the most central standard on which fraternities at Belmont select our members — character. We sought to resolve this through cooperation, asking the administration to include character as a critical criterion for membership, but so far, President Fisher has refused to meet with us.
Our organizations are based on principles and core values, which guide our actions. These ideals define our fraternal associations and hold deep meaning across generations of brothers. These values also steer us as we recruit and select new members. First and foremost, the fraternities at Belmont look for men of strong character, who we believe will continuously improve our organizations and contribute positively to the university community.
Living up to these ideals is not easy, and we are by no means perfect. We have our issues, but one of the greatest opportunities for our personal growth occurs through our bonds of brotherhood as we strive to achieve these principles. Yet, when we cannot select members in accordance with these values, it diminishes the significance of the fraternity’s most important purpose, personal development.
In recruitment each year, a handful of men who are uninterested in a brotherhood based on personal growth show their true intentions through their conversations. In the past, they have made off-color comments that show intolerance — not inclusion; they have asked questions that indicate they are only interested in the social aspect of fraternities; or they have made disparaging remarks about women.
Those men don’t belong in Belmont fraternities; they are not “men of distinction,” as Phi Kappa Tau’s Creed notes, nor would they be focused on a building a “brotherhood based on eternal … principles,” as the Alpha Tau Omega Creed implores.
With this policy, the administration is forcing fraternities to choose between selecting men of character and our fraternal existence at Belmont. This is our home, but we believe that we should contribute to it by being organizations aligned with our Creeds, that practice what we espouse. We cannot do that if we don’t control who joins our brotherhood as we have at Belmont for the past 20 years.
Beyond how the administration’s decision will affect fraternities, it should concern our peers across the student body. Admittedly, Belmont is a private university with latitude in its decisions, but when the decisions of a few can limit our freedoms — in this case, the freedom of association — what comes next? Is it restricting the free speech of someone who speaks out against a policy? Or who poses a controversial viewpoint? Is it controlling the content taught by faculty in the classroom?
Please know, we respect the university administration, yet, we question how decisions that limit basic student rights can be made by a few without the input of many students and stakeholders.
Difficult choices lie ahead for fraternities as we contemplate our next steps over the summer. Regardless of whether you like fraternities or not, if you believe that student rights are paramount to personal and intellectual growth, we encourage you to sign this petition so your voice is heard by the University Board of Trustees.
Austin Coleman, Phi Kappa Tau chapter president
Patrick Williamson, Alpha Tau Omega chapter president