ST. GEORGE, Utah, October 30, 2013—Nineteen female Dixie State University students are being forced to fight their own school for the right to use Greek letters in the name of their organization. Indigo Klabanoff and the members of Phi Beta Pi have repeatedly been denied official recognition because administrators feel that the use of Greek letters in an organization name will give Dixie State a “party school” image.
“I’ve seen a lot of campus censorship in my time, but telling students their club can’t be recognized solely because they wish to use letters from a particular alphabet is a new one to me,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but as a state university, Dixie State simply does not have the power to ban or regulate the use of the Greek alphabet, the Latin alphabet, or any other system of writing.”
In a video released today by FIRE, Phi Beta Pi President Indigo Klabanoff and other members explain their dispute with the university and make the case for equal treatment.
Dixie State has gone to absurd lengths to deny recognition to Phi Beta Pi as a normal student club. (The group is not asking Dixie State to form a Greek life or residential living apparatus.) For instance, in the video, Klabanoff relates how the rule against Greek letters in club names was simply made up in response to Klabanoff’s request. The club believes that the use of Greek letters in its name is important to communicate the values of sisterhood and service to which it aspires.
Without recognition, the organization will have to come up with $225 to reserve a room for a women’s career conference it has scheduled for November 16. (Recognized clubs do not have to pay to reserve rooms.) Burdensome costs for participating in campus life will only mount from there. FIRE is therefore asking concerned citizens to write Dixie State and ask it to officially recognize Phi Beta Pi and withdraw its arbitrary and unsupportable rule against the use of the Greek alphabet in organization names.
“In this instance, Dixie State students seek only to establish a normal student club with a Greek letter name. But administrative hostility towards students interested in Greek life is becoming a disturbing trend nationwide,” said Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Trinity College prohibits students from participating in unrecognized social organizations. Wesleyan University tried to ban students even from ‘taking meals’ in houses owned by unrecognized groups. And the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s kangaroo-court treatment of a fraternity sparked the state’s legislature to pass a bill guaranteeing students the right to counsel in campus hearings. While people may object to aspects of Greek life on many campuses, sacrificing freedom of association and expression is not the answer.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.