The push for Greek life on campus isn’t a new one, but the recent attempts to charter a club with Greek letters could possibly lead to legal issues.
The Dixie State University inter club council voted on Aug. 20 to uphold changes to ICC bylaws that would prohibit clubs from using Greek letters. The initiative to allow Greek letters was spearheaded by Indigo Klabanoff, a senior communication major from Boston.
Dean of Students Del Beatty said he met with Klabanoff in 2012 and told her DSU administration would not support the establishment of a Greek life program at this time.
Beatty advised Klabanoff to start a club rather than a sorority, and she opted to start a club containing Greek letters in the title.
“Creating a club name that only contains (Greek) letters gives the impression that the new club is a sanctioned sorority and that DSU has a Greek life program, which currently we do not,” Beatty said.
Klabanoff opted to continue her efforts in naming a club Phi Beta Pi, which is an inversion of an existing sorority — Pi Beta Phi.
Jordon Sharp, director of student involvement and leadership, said in the bylaw meeting Aug. 20 that the administration’s decision to not pursue Greek life at this time is a legitimate one.
Sharp said Greek life means additional housing, fees, insurance and a full-time adviser, none of which the university is able to provide at this time.
“We’re not opposed to that if there’s funding for that,” he said. “We don’t have funding for it right now.”
He said another reason is liability.
“It’s no secret that [Greek Life] comes with liability,” he said.
He pointed out that another fraternity already existed that had the same Greek letters Klabanoff wanted to use—Phi Beta Pi— was a men’s medical fraternity. He brought up issues of trademark and dues that would need to be paid to national organizations.
Beatty talked to Shawn Eagleburger, director of programming for Pi Beta Phi, and Eagleburger said Klabanoff was not following procedures set by the National Panhellenic Conference—an umbrella group for various fraternities and sororities. He said the use of Phi Beta Pi as an organization name could result in legal action.
“On Aug. 20, I again spoke personally with [Shawn] Eagleburger from the Pi Beta Phi national office in Missouri who indicated they feel Ms. Klabanoff is intimating an affiliation with Pi Beta Phi through the use of words, symbols and insignia that are representative of their organization,” Beatty said. “They have considered a possible cease and desist order because their insignias, colors, symbols, motto and name are trademarked.”
Beatty asked to see Klabanoff’s proposed constitution, which was submitted to the ICC for club approval.
“Upon reviewing it, I found that it was excellently written and very straightforward,” Beatty said. “But when I compared it to what Pi Beta Phi has on their website, I found something very interesting. Indigo’s submission is word-for-word plagiarism.”
The Pi Beta Phi’s mission statement, vision, motto and core values are almost identical to those submitted by Klabanoff to the ICC.
“It was similar, but not the same,” Klabanoff wrote in an email.
Klabanoff sought assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that, according to an Aug. 19 letter to DSU President Stephen Nadauld, “…unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality, freedom of association, religious liberty, and freedom of speech on America’s college campuses.”
The letter stated a concern “…about the threat to free association and free assembly posed by Dixie State University’s statement that it will deny recognition to the Phi Beta Pi student social organization simply because of the club’s use of Greek letters in its name. Such a restriction violates the First Amendment, which Dixie State is both legally and morally bound to uphold.”
The letter goes on to outline how the ICC held a summer vote for the purpose of changing bylaws to reflect the administration’s views on Greek life and that the college’s “…continued promises to withhold recognition from Phi Beta Pi and its new policy prohibiting Greek letters by campus groups violate the university’s legal and moral obligations under the First Amendment.”
The letter stated that the bylaw amendments were made to specifically preclude Phi Beta Pi from gaining recognition, and the action is targeting a single group.
“There is simply no authority by which Dixie State can constitutionally refuse to recognize an organization simply because of the group’s use of the Greek alphabet (or any other alphabet) in its name.”
Beatty said a club could accomplish all the things Klabanoff wants to accomplish without associating itself with Greek life. He said a ban on Greek letters isn’t necessarily something that will last forever.
“Until [DSU] changes its stance, I have to do my best to encourage and assist students in organizing and chartering the clubs they desire but within established policy and procedural guidelines,” Beatty said. “In my opinion, if this proposed new group at DSU would simply change their name and charter under non-Greek letters, and stop referring to themselves as ‘Dixie’s new sorority,’ there would probably not be an issue or problem with them being approved and chartered.”