NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
by Russell Westerholm
A public college in Utah will not officially recognize any groups with Greek letters in its name to avoid any chance of being labeled “a party school,” but that ban may infringe on a very basic right any student has.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) president Greg Lukianoff wrote in a blog post on the Huffington Post that Dixie State University that a student is continually being denied in starting a sorority on campus simply because of the school’s policy.
Indigo Klabanoff, a senior at Dixie and founder of Phi Beta Pi noted that school recognized clubs that promote partying, such as “the Organization of Good Parties.” Still, she cannot establish the group on campus because the school says it has a “compelling interest” in avoiding any group with Greek letters in its name to avoid being perceived as a “party school.”
“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,” FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley, said in press release. “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.”
FIRE wrote a letter to the school in August claiming that Dixie was restricting its students right to free expression and right to assembly under the First Amendment. Still, since the free-speech advocates became involved, Dixie has not budged away from their position and Klabanoff, a senior, is running out of time to get the group recognized.
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,” Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said in the release. “While people may object to aspects of Greek life on many campuses, sacrificing freedom of association and expression is not the answer.”