A judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by five USC Greek life organizations that alleged the university’s recently enacted policy banning the recruiting of students until they’ve finished their first semester and achieved a minimum 2.5 GPA violates their First Amendment right of association.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Nieto said the USC policy implemented in August is meant to allow new students to acclimate to university life and is not a disciplinary action aimed at infringing upon free speech. She said that if she found in favor of the plaintiffs, it could open the doors to extensive litigation by groups in similar situations.
“I can’t imagine how many lawsuits we’d have,” Nieto said.
The judge also found that the law cited by the plaintiffs does not protect freedom of association.
Four USC fraternities — Sigma Chi, Beta Theta Pi, Theta Xi, and Tau Kappa Epsilon, and one sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta — filed the lawsuit on June 22.
Lawyer R. Alexander Pilmer, on behalf of the plaintiffs, said he will appeal. His clients previously appealed Nieto’s denial in August that asked for a preliminary injunction barring USC from enforcing the policy pending a trial of the issues.
Pilmer said the new policy discriminates against students interested in Greek life organizations and that it does not impact students who wish to join other organizations aside from sororities and fraternities. Pilmer said he took the case based on the interesting constitutional issues.
The plaintiffs maintain that sororities and fraternities act as support systems for freshmen and that the students are capable of making the best decision of whether to join the organizations.
The policy mandates that new USC students complete 12 units of classes before joining a fraternity or a sorority and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
USC lawyers maintained in their court papers that the sorority-fraternity “deferred recruitment” policy adopted by the school was previously implemented in such well-known universities as Stanford, Tulane and Cornell.
“Ultimately, the university concluded, like many of its peer institutions, that the benefits of allowing new students one semester to acclimate to USC academics and social life outweighs any perceived disadvantages of deferring recruitment activities by one semester,” USC’s attorneys state din their court papers.