A former Dickinson College fraternity has sued the school, claiming Dickinson is discriminating against its members.
The Omicron Chapter of Sigma Chi and several Dickinson students filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Court Wednesday, claiming the college is "punishing students simply because they join or seek to join the chapter."
They allege the college has violated their constitutional rights by refusing to list chapter members who qualify for the dean’s list.
The lawsuit also asserts that college officials intercepted U.S. mail addressed to the fraternity. Members say their First Amendment rights have been violated.
Don Zane, president of Omicron House Corp., says he finds it "ironic" that a college chartered by a signer of the Declaration of Independence "now seeks to punish students merely because they desire to enjoy their First Amendment freedom of association rights to associate off campus."
The group has obtained legal counsel from both Philadelphia and Cincinnati based law-firms.
Expelled in ‘04
Sigma Chi has not been recognized by the college as a student group since 2004, when it was expelled from campus because of multiple violations over a three-year period, says Dickinson spokeswoman Christine Dugan. She says the group’s expulsion came after lengthy efforts to work with the fraternity.
"When the actions of one organization interferes with the educational mission of the institution in a way that violates the community college standards, the rules of the college inter-fratnerity law and possibly Pennsylvania law, the college has no choice but to take strong measures," Dugan says.
Since its expulsion, the fraternity has continued to exist off-campus without recognition from the college. It became a problem when the fraternity began going on-campus to recruit members, Dugan says.
The college sent fraternity members a memo in February, outlining the school’s position and penalty for using the college to increase membership, she says. That penalty is suspension or expulsion from the school.
"We have chosen not to associate with this organization. Our students are free to associate with the organization, but the cost will be disassociation from the school," Dugan adds.
So far, no students have been expelled in connection to joining the fraternity. Students who were members prior to the February memo are exempt.
The college has chosen to take a strong stand against the fraternity because "if we allow one organization to violate our principles, it erodes trust in the integrity of recognized fraternities and sororities," Dugan says.
Dickinson has 10 recognized Greek organizations on its campus.
"From a constitutional perspective, we are not infringing on the rights of any student organization," Dugan says. "The college is a private citizen. We have chosen not to associate with this organization and we expect students to abide by that."