Yesterday, FIRE released a new video on Dixie State University student Indigo Klabanoff’s push against the university after it denied recognition to her student organization because there are Greek letters (Phi Beta Pi) in its name. Dixie State administrators repeatedly told Klabanoff that campus clubs may not have Greek letters in their names because they would convey the image of a “party school.” Dixie State must be feeling the heat, because according to Utah’s Deseret News, Dean of Students Del Beatty is now claiming that the university has refused to recognize Phi Beta Pi because its name raises trademark and confusion issues.
I guess Dixie State figures if it throws enough spaghetti at the wall, some of it is bound to stick.
Beatty claims that Phi Beta Pi is opening the door for potential legal claims against the school from both the national sorority Pi Beta Phi and a medical fraternity headquartered in Texas called Phi Beta Pi. Dixie State, however, is well aware that Klabanoff and Pi Beta Phi’s legal counsel exchanged emails and resolved any potential problems in August, after which the sorority’s representative thanked Klabanoff and wished her the best. Beatty should be aware of this because, among other things, we wrote about it in a letter to Dixie State’s lawyer.
This is the last email from Pi Beta Phi, in full:
Thank you so much for responding to my email and so quickly. I appreciate your understanding of our concerns, and changes you have already made.
Thank you also for sending me the FIRE letter–I had actually already seen it. There are a number of articles with respect to this on their website. I am very familiar with FIRE and I applaud and appreciate their efforts in fighting for the rights of students.
I wish you the best in your efforts.
Further, a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database shows no registered trademark for “Phi Beta Pi.” Nor is a Utah undergraduate student club likely to be confused with a Texas medical fraternity with the same name.
So much for copyright or trademark concerns.
Moving on, Beatty’s claim that the group’s colors, insignia, and motto pose a liability problem makes no sense in light of his statement that “if this proposed new group … would simply change their name,” then “there would most likely be no issue … with them being chartered.” So if all it takes is a change of name for Klabanoff’s group to gain recognition, then why is Dixie State bluffing about intellectual property concerns? Talk about moving the goalposts.
And let’s not forget the reason Dixie State prohibited the use of Greek letters in the first place, by which it still stands: the idea that that banning Greek letters will protect the school from having a “party school” image—as if image concerns were somehow more important than free speech. This newly proffered rationale is easily debunked by common sense and fact-checking.
Enough is enough. Dixie State must acknowledge the rights of Phi Beta Pi members to name their organization what they wish to name it—regardless of the alphabet they choose to use. Citizens who’d like to see Dixie State finally exercise a little common sense should tell it so.