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Newsletter > September 2022 > "Creation of the University Park Interfraternity Council to Promote Peer Governance"
Creation of the University Park Interfraternity Council to Promote Peer Governance
Timothy M. Burke, Fraternal Law Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org
A university has every right to promptly and fairly investigate accusations of misconduct by members of fraternities and sororities. However, at times, whatever good intentions a university may have, too often universities’ reactions penalize groups not even accused of misconduct, result in long delays, or punish everyone in a chapter, when only a small minority are even accused of misconduct. So, it is not surprising that there comes a time when fraternal groups may elect to disaffiliate from the university.
Disaffiliation allows the groups to operate the organization as intended and as they have a constitutional right to do. That is what happened when, on August 13, 2022, ten (10) fraternity chapters at the University of Southern California (“USC”) announced the creation of the University Park Interfraternity Council (“UPIFC”) and disaffiliated from USC. The ten groups were Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Alpha Order, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Zeta Beta Tau. According to UPIFC, each of the ten organizations had the support of the national organization that had chartered the chapters.
The UPIFC announced that its intent is to advance peer governance and as a top priority the health and safety of their members and guests. UPIFC made it clear that all students and member organizations “will be expected to follow both the law and all organizational policies.”
In announcing this decision, the UPIFC explained what caused the disaffiliation:
Over the past several years, the partnership between fraternity chapters and USC has been deteriorating, with significant deterioration throughout the past year stemming from a USC suspension of nearly all organizational activities lasting more than 90 days, including for organizations that have not been implicated in any wrong doing, prolonged University investigations that have resulted in lengthy, interim suspensions, as well as a unilateral decision in 2017, to enact a deferred fraternity/sorority recruitment policy which restricts the associational rights of students.
The disaffiliation will, according to the UPIFC, “allow us to fully continue all normal activities, including philanthropy and fundraising events, community service, regular chapter meetings, officer elections and recruitment.”
The same day, the North American Interfraternity Council (“NIC”) issued a statement announcing its commitment to working with the UPIFC and USC in hopes “that a bridge to a successful partnership can be built through two-way listening and a constructive, solution-oriented dialogue to resolve the concerns that have led to this point.” Its opening paragraph stated, “the NIC has worked for several years to address our members’ concerns with USC’s policies and processes that disincentivize sexual misconduct reporting and treat IFC fraternities in a manner that is fundamentally unfair and inconsistent with the Conferences’ position statements on system-wide actions, organizational conduct adjudication and recruitment.”
The Los Angeles Times quoted Judson Horras, the President of NIC, as explaining “we reached a point where the [breakaway] groups did not want to go through another year of this type of system.”
The University expressed its strong disappointment and urged its students not to join those groups that had disaffiliated from the University. Both the University and local press reports noted that similar disaffiliations had occurred on other campuses, including the University of Colorado–Boulder, the University of Michigan, and Duke University.
It is worth noting that USC is a private university that in most states would not be required to afford its students respect for their constitutional rights. However, California’s unique Leonard’s Law (California Education Code 94367) applies the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to private colleges and universities in that State.
 Announcing University Park Interfraternity Council, Univ. Park IFC (Aug. 13, 2022), http://www.universityparkifc.com/announcing-university-park-interfraternity-council/.
 Statement Regarding the Formation of University Park Interfraternity Council, N. Am. Interfraternity Council (Aug. 13, 2022), https://nicfraternity.org/statement-regarding-formation-of-university-park-interfraternity-council/.
 USC Breakaway Fraternities Make Own Rules, Defy Campus Ban, L.A. Times, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-20/fraternities-disaffiliated-from-usc-hold-fall-frosh-rush-defying-campus-ban-on-practice.