Chapman responds to outlaw fraternity

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket As reported yesterday on Navel Gazing, a group hoping to start a Jewish Fraternity at Chapman, see [Scarlet Letters, May 10] has issued a warning through the American Civil Liberties Union that the school cease what they consider violations of their First Amendment rights on campus or face the consequences. Read yesterday's post here.

The ACLU vaguely threatened legal action if Chapman does not immediately allow the students to wear their shirts on campus as well as other public displays of their existence. Although contacted yesterday, Chapman was unable to respond late last night.

Here's how they've responded in an e-mailed statement: We do not believe that the ACLU is fully aware of the facts. Although Chapman University cannot discuss the specific matters relating to the students, due to federal student privacy regulations, the University is already in touch with leading constitutional law scholars and attorneys regarding the ACLU’s claims.

Chapman University has a clearly defined process for choosing new Greek organizations, which is outlined on the attached sheet. Because of the university’s small size (total student population in 2006-07 is 5,732, including graduate and law students), an official invitation to an inter/national Greek organization to establish a chapter at Chapman is extended only very rarely. Chapman currently has six fraternities and five sororities; before this year, the last time Chapman selected a fraternity was in 1999. The last time a new sorority was selected was in 2002.

Obviously, this means that not every fraternity that applies during the expansion process (which is held every other year; fraternities alternate with sororities) can be selected – and in fact, it means that most applicants must be turned down. Some years, no Greek organizations are selected at all. Sigma Alpha Mu (SAM) was one of 13 inter/national fraternities that applied under the most recent expansion process. Three fraternities (Sigma Chi, Kappa Alpha Order and Phi Gamma Delta) were selected as finalists under this fair and equitable process, and finally the selection committee, after careful consideration, invited one fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, to officially establish itself at Chapman. The committee felt that Phi Gamma Delta best fit the criteria and, of all the finalists, had the best potential for ongoing success at Chapman.

Following the selection of Phi Gamma Delta in April 2006 as the one organization officially invited to become established at Chapman, students involved with the Sigma Alpha Mu effort continued to meet as an unauthorized group, created a website, wore their Greek-letter paraphernalia on campus, and created a “rush” flier soliciting new members. Chapman’s authorized Greek organizations grew increasingly frustrated at these actions, and university officials grew increasingly concerned that SAM was acting as an underground fraternity on campus.

Tragic incidents involving unauthorized Greek organizations on other campuses (cf., among others, Ferris State University, where a pledge’s death in 2001 led to prosecutions of members of an unofficial fraternity) have left students’ lives at risk and universities potentially liable for damages for not sufficiently controlling such groups or warning students about them. The decision was thus made to send an official letter from Chapman University’s Student LEAD Center (the student organizations office) and the Vice President and Dean of Students, Dr. Joe Kertes, to the unauthorized Chapman SAM group. The letter included a request that SAM cease and desist from advertising or hosting Chapman-chapter SAM-related events on university premises, that it stipulate to its inter/national office that Chapman University does not recognize SAM as a campus organization, that it clarify that any student involvement with SAM is at the student’s own discretion, and that it show that the inter/national office’s insurance carrier is fully aware that the university does not recognize SAM as an authorized campus organization.

We realize that the students who hoped to establish a Sigma Alpha Mu chapter at Chapman University are disappointed that they – along with 11 other hopeful organizations – were not selected in this process. We appreciate their enthusiasm and encourage them to apply again during the next expansion cycle. We have also repeatedly invited them to become an official university club – which is much less competitive than the fraternity selection process – and so far they have refused to accept this option.

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