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Newsletter > January 2013 > "Chico State Suspends All Greek Organizations"
Chico State Suspends All Greek Organizations
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last decade, California State University at Chico has experienced four deaths related to fraternities on its campus. The first three were hazing related. The most recent, the death of Mason Sumnicht, occurred in November. He died, after lingering for 11 days, suffering from alcohol poisoning from his 21st birthday party gone wrong.
Chico State responded to the death, calling a meeting of all fraternities and sororities on campus and announced that all of them were suspended. All activities were prohibited, including chapter meetings, even philanthropic and community service events. Further, the University required that fraternities and sororities cover the Greek letters on the outside of their privately owned chapter houses.
At the mass meeting, Chico State’s Vice President for Student Affairs acknowledged that some of the fraternities and sororities on campus were “exemplars” of what the Greek system was supposed to be, but he and the President were critical of others that continued encouraging or permitting binge drinking or out of control parties and the improper treatment of new or prospective members.
The University is to announce some time in the spring semester the future of its Greek system at Chico State.
It is understandable that a university with this record of tragic deaths would react strongly, yet this incident is different. It apparently did not involve hazing or underage drinking. And it certainly did not involve misconduct by all of the Greek groups on campus. Yet, all of the Greek groups are being punished.
Chico State is a public university. There is no question that its actions could be challenged under the United States Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1983, for violations of the constitutional protections of Freedom of Association, Freedom of Speech, due process and equal protection. Whether or not such litigation occurs in the future may well depend upon how quickly Chico State lifts the suspension and what additional restrictions may be imposed.