- DUE PROCESS DENIED AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
- ANOTHER DRINKING DEATH
- PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
- BAD FACTS MAKE BAD LAW AND FRATERNITIES SUFFER
Newsletter > January 2001 > "PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS"
PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
Timothy M. Burke, Manley & Burke
In light of the decision in the Pi Lambda Phi case, fraternities should keep in mind that constitutional rights, like most other rights. sometimes need active attention in order to be protected. Here are a few suggestions for actions that can be taken to help protect the First Amendment Freedom of Association rights of Greek organizations.
Intimate association activity should be practiced and includes, among other things:
- Emphasis on the quality of new members rather than overall size of a chapter;
- Underscoring that membership is limited to active students at a particular academic institution who are willing to maintain specific academic and social standards in compliance with the rules of the organization;
- A documented interview process and/or review of a prospective candidate’s background to determine compatibility and qualification for membership;
- Emphasizing the fact that meetings, rituals and other critical aspects of participation in the organization are closed to members;
- Maintaining the secrecy of rituals and enforcing disciplinary penalties for violating the confidentiality of ritual;
- Maintaining social events that are relatively exclusive; in addition to being a good risk management practice, protecting the chapter’s First Amendment rights is just another reason to avoid “open” parties;
- The family-like setting of chapter housing, whether it is in a house or a suite or wing in a dormitory, should be highlighted;
- Dining together by chapter members ought to be encouraged on a regular basis; If the chapter doesn’t have a house offering a meal plan, consideration ought to at least be given to joining together periodically, whether it is once a week or once a month for a meal as a group;
- Internal support program for members, academic, or personal counseling help to emphasize the friendship, comradery, and emotional support for one another that should be a part of any good chapter;
- Celebrate the lifelong nature of the fraternity relationship and emphasize alumni events as an important part of Greek life;
- Using terms like “brother,” “sister,” “sisterhood” and “brotherhood” highlight in a meaningful way the family-like intimate association of a good
Many of the above activities will also help to protect the expressive association First Amendment claims of a fraternity. So will the following:
- During the recruitment process, celebrate more than the social nature of the organization. Social compatibility is part of the membership relationship, but so is the moral, academic and leadership advancement and camaraderie that is found in the purpose clauses of most Greek organizations.
- Clearly emphasize community service programs that the chapter engages in and don’t hide the fact that they are going on. Get articles in the campus newspaper and in the major media. A chapter that is cleaning up a mile of highway on a weekend or helping to build a Habitat for Humanity house, in all likelihood, can get television and newspaper coverage just by letting the press know the activity is going on.
- Emphasize the chapter’s philanthropic activities to be certain that they are active and documented and they are more than what the Pi Lambda Phi court called “underwhelming.”
- Consider sponsoring public programs on campus that address community needs and issues. For example, conduct a voter registration drive on campus or assist in a nonpartisan voter registration drive being conducted off campus or work with the League of Women Voters to distribute nonpartisan voter guides providing information on candidates of all parties and issues to perspective
- Sponsor campus-wide programs on serious issues like risk management, alcoholism. sexually transmitted diseases or personal
- Be involved in public issues and debate. For example, if your chapter’s philanthropy is cancer research and there is a bill pending in the state legislature that would provide additional funding for cancer research, lobby for it. Spending a small amount of money on postage or gas mileage to go to a public hearing won’t jeopardize your organization’s tax
- Actively participate in your national’s leadership programs and relate information gained at those programs back to the
All of these activities should be documented. This is another good argument for maintaining an up-to-date chapter history and good files. You don’t want to be in the position Pi Lambda Phi found itself in. By adopting some of the tips contained above, you won’t be.