- FIRST AMENDMENT DISPUTE
- GREEK LIFE: A RICH FIELD FOR EVANGELIZATION
- EDITOR’S NOTE ON A MINISTER’S VIEW OF FRATERNITIES
- Update on AEPi’s Case Against CSI
- PRIMER ON SET ASIDE PROCEDURES
- LOCAL SORORITY SUES CHICO STATE UNIVERSITY
Newsletter > March 2006 > "LOCAL SORORITY SUES CHICO STATE UNIVERSITY"
LOCAL SORORITY SUES CHICO STATE UNIVERSITY
Dan McCarthy, Manley Burke
Alpha Chi, a local sorority at California State University, Chico, filed a lawsuit1 in January against the University in state court alleging multiple civil rights violations. Alpha Chi, the oldest sorority at Chico State, was recently suspended by the University for attempting to recruit new members during a University imposed campus-wide ban on rush.
As reported in Fraternal Law, Matthew Carrington, a pledge of the Chi Tau Fraternity, an unrecognized fraternity at Chico State, died in a hazing incident in February of 2005. Members of the fraternity ordered Mr. Carrington to chug gallons of water. Mr. Carrington drank too much water and died of cardiac dysrhthmia caused by water intoxication. Five members of the fraternity received jail sentences for their roles in Mr. Carrington’s death.
The University responded to Mr. Carrington’s death swiftly and severely. Last September, the University instituted 59 new recommendations for all sororities and fraternities on campus. The recommendations called for all dry houses all the time for an indefinite time and a complete end to hazing. One of the “recommendations” called for no new member recruitment during the 2005 Fall semester. The stated purpose of this recommendation was to “allow chapters to restructure, rebuild, and recommit to chapter values as their first priority.” The College said “significant violation [of the recommendations] will lead to chapter suspension.”
Since its founding as a local sorority in 1918 until 2005, Chico State recognized Alpha Chi as a full functioning sorority and member of the Greek system. The complaint alleges that Alpha Chi’s sorority house requires at least 31 resident members to meet its basic financial obligations. The complaint continues, Alpha Chi needs approximately 15 new members each semester simply to survive. This is a similar issue for fraternities and sororities across the country, as rush truly is the lifeblood of Greek organizations.
If not permitted to rush new members during the fall 2005 semester, the sorority determined that its future existence would be in jeopardy because 1) they would have to secure twice as many new members in the spring semester, 2) the number crunch would force the sorority to be much less selective in who they admit as members, and 3) simply finding enough acceptable members in the spring semester to pay the expenses of the sorority would not be feasible. Alpha Chi concluded that in order to sustain itself, it could not afford to take the 2005 fall semester off rush.
Therefore, the sorority attempted to recruit new members at the campus student union during the fall of 2005. The University immediately suspended Alpha Chi for violations of the new “recommendations” for Greek organizations. As part of its suspension, the University no longer recognizes Alpha Chi and the sorority is not entitled to any of the benefits that recognized student groups receive. Such benefits include the use of the student union and other campus facilities and the ability to participate in campus activities such as intramural sports and Greek week.
California Civil Rights attorney Eric Berg sued on behalf of Alpha Chi, alleging that the University is violating the members’ civil rights. The suit claims violations of freedoms of expression, assembly, speech, and due process rights. The suit noted that the 59 “recommendations” applied to Greek organizations but not to any other student organization on campus. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the University’s “recommendations or rules forbidding recruitment by Greek social organizations on campus was unconstitutional and void to the extent it prevented free speech and assembly and discriminated against organizations in the use of a public, school building on a public campus, funded by Federal and State of California public funds based upon the content of the organization and the content of the speech and assembly.”
Alpha Chi is seeking the ability to use campus facilities and resources, to speak to and associate with students on campus, to use campus mail to communicate with students, the same rights and privileges as all other student organizations on campus, an order preventing the University from disciplining any student for participating in the lawsuit, an order granting students the same rights that existed prior to the enactment of the “recommendations,” and money damages.
Alpha Chi’s motion for preliminary injunction was argued on February 24th. A decision has not yet been announced. Fraternal Law will keep you updated on this case as it proceeds.
1 Matejka, et al. v. California State University, Chico, et al., Butte County, California, Superior Court, Case No. 136433