LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California and Chapman University have reached a settlement agreement that clarifies the free speech rights of student groups that are not officially recognized by the private university.
The agreement, between the University and the Sigma Alpha Mu (SAM) fraternity and ten of its student members, stipulates, among other points, that SAM'and all other organizations not officially recognized as among the university's registered student groups - will be allowed to congregate on campus, distribute materials in designated areas on campus and purchase ads in the student newspaper.
'We are gratified that we could work with Chapman administrators and SAM members to develop a settlement that preserves the free speech rights of students while supporting the university's obligation to maintain strong policies and procedures that are fair to and protective of all its students,' said Hector Villagra, director of the ACLU-SC Orange County Office.
'Chapman University, with its long history of dedication to issues of social justice, is ever mindful of fostering the fundamental values of freedom of speech, inquiry and association among our students,' said Mary Platt, Chapman's director of communications and media relations. 'This agreement, in essence, makes clear that members of unofficial student organizations can promote themselves on campus, consistent with our longstanding commitment to students' rights.'
The agreement states that unrecognized groups, in addition to being allowed to leaflet in designated areas on the campus, will be able to rent tables in designated areas to promote themselves. The agreement also states that unrecognized groups must prominently disclaim any affiliation with the university in all written or online documents.
In February 2006, a group of about 18 students wanted to start a chapter of SAM, the national Jewish fraternity, at Chapman. The group was one of 13 national fraternities that applied for the one open position on the campus that year, and participated in the university's competitive fraternity selection process. After it was not selected, SAM decided to continue as an unrecognized campus group.
However, the group received a letter of warning from the dean that they could not use Chapman's name and could not recruit on campus. This agreement rescinds the letter of warning while stipulating the university's right to protect its name and logo and to engage in its own selection process for official groups.