Sorority saga continues
Even though Alpha Chi was able to recruit about a dozen new pledges this semester, the local sorority is still following through with its civil rights lawsuit against Chico State.
With a small group of Alpha Chi members in tow, attorney Eric Berg presented more arguments last week claiming that the sisters’ civil rights were violated after the university put the kibosh on their use of campus facilities.
The lawsuit stems from the sorority’s getting kicked off campus in August for bringing in new pledges after a fall recruitment ban imposed by Chico State President Paul Zingg.
In the wake of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington’s hazing death last February, Zingg approved the establishment of 59 recommendations to be followed by local Greeks in order to maintain university recognition.
And with rush firing up again this semester, Berg said the members of Alpha Chi were at a noticeable disadvantage, being relegated to using clipboards in the Free Speech Area if they wanted to recruit new members.
The Tau Gamma Theta fraternity was also booted off campus for recruiting during the fall semester. Founding father Charlie Preusser and other members of the fraternity were also on hand last week to listen to Berg present his argument.
Berg said Alpha Chi, the oldest sorority at Chico State, has a blemish-free history with 90 years of public service in the Chico community and commended the members for deciding to stand up against the university.
Berg said Alpha Chi’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly under the First Amendment have been violated by Chico State and that “the government” has no legal ground for keeping sorority members from associating with other students on campus.
“This is a retaliation by the government for these girls questioning them,” he said.
But Berg insisted that the issue goes far beyond Alpha Chi, explaining that it is the member’s rights as United States citizens—and paying students—to use campus facilities and resources.
“Students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gate,” Berg said.
Speaking on behalf of sorority adviser Jim Davis, Berg said there were 10 or 15 of the university’s 59 recommendations that he objected to, including the ban of traditional song and dance activities, annual house inspections and grade point average requirements, which he said discriminates against the “learning disabled.”
Chapters are required to turn in rosters to confirm that members are working toward raising the Greek GPAs to the student average. The average fraternity GPA in fall 2004 was 2.48, below the all-men’s average of 2.6, and sororities came in with 2.78, below the all-women’s average of 2.92.
The sorority took a financial hit last semester by not being able to recruit—the alumni association forks out $15,000 a year just for insurance on the house. (Members pay dues, and those who live in the house pay rent.)
“They’ve become second-class citizens,” Berg said. “The money lost doesn’t equal what they’ve been through.”
Berg also contended that Alpha Chi recruited new members well before the recommendations even went into effect.
However Andrea Gunn, legal council for the CSU, said that while certain tiers of rules were to go into effect at different times, the recruitment ban was specific to the fall semester.
Gunn, who made the trip to Chico from Long Beach for the brief day at the Chico branch of the Butte Superior Court, said the plaintiffs will be hard-pressed to successfully challenge all 59 recommendations.