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Newsletter > January 2008 > "DEPAUW AND DELTA ZETA SETTLE LITIGATON"
DEPAUW AND DELTA ZETA SETTLE LITIGATON
Daniel McCarthy, Manley Burke
As reported in the September, 2007 issue of Fraternal Law, Delta Zeta recently sued DePauw University in federal court, alleging, among other claims, breach of contract, defamation and tortuous interference with business relationships. The parties announced a settlement in the case in November. The press release stated, in full,
Delta Zeta national sorority and DePauw University have reached a resolution terminating the litigation between them. Although Delta Zeta does not have a chapter on campus, the parties have agreed that with support of a group of DePauw Delta Zeta alumnae, Delta Zeta national sorority will have the opportunity to seek a return to campus beginning in academic year 2010-11.
DePauw values its relationships with its alumnae who are members of Delta Zeta and recognizes that like DePauw, Delta Zeta has an objective to develop college students.
This case highlighted the importance of two common recurring themes for Greek organizations. First, if a chapter conducts a membership review, such review must strictly comply with the organization’s written guidelines. Such reviews can generate controversy, both among the chapter members and the wider campus community. The organization must be prepared to effectively deal with any such backlash. Second, all fraternities and sororities must have complete public relations plans in place. The national organizations must ensure that all of their chapters know what to do if a particular issue grabs the attention of the local, or in this case, national media. Issues that would otherwise be of little public interest can quickly become huge stories if the wrong person makes ill-advised comments to the media.