Chapman settles suit with ACLU, Jewish Fraternity

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The ACLU Orange County Chapter plans to announce that it settled a case it brought against Chapman University regarding the school's censoring of an unrecognized chapter of the Jewish fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu, ACLU spokeswoman Celeste Durant says.

Chapman senior Pascal DeMaria and more than a dozen other students attempted to found the Chapman fraternity unsuccessfully in 2006 [see "Scarlet Letters" May 10]. After Chapman refused to recognize them, the group began calling themselves Sigma Alpha Mu of Orange County and attempted to continue existing as a fraternity not affiliated with Chapman.

Chapman Dean Joe Kertes found out the group had not disbanded and sent its members a letter threatening that the students "could be in violation of the Student Conduct Code for which you will personally be responsible,” the letter said. The letter also stipulated the group could absolutely never meet on campus or intermingle with other Chapman-sanctioned Greeks.

Then the ACLU brought suit and instead of a likely expensive court battle, Chapman officials decided to acquiesce to their demands.

Durant says no monetary settlement was reached, the school simply has agreed to relax their policy on allowing unrecognized student groups on campus. Before the decision, the fraternity members could not wear their T-shirts, post flyers on bulletin boards announcing events or set up tables in hopes of recruiting new members. Durant says Chapman will now allow all of those things just as long as the groups do not represent themselves as official Chapman groups.

Here's what Chapman spokeswoman Mary Platt said about the decision: “We were happy to work with the ACLU in clarifying points that were already in place in our policies regarding recognized groups. This agreement now makes clear that unrecognized student groups can promote themselves on campus in designated areas, consistent with the regulations in place for all students.”


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