Frats wait and see

William Dalsen

A credible source familiar with the fraternity lawsuits recently informed The Lawrentian that the potential settlement would require fraternities to adhere to the Formal Group Housing policy without exception – to the chagrin of some of the parties involved – and also that the current funds for fraternity scholarships will be augmented. While the current terms guarantee that fraternities will keep their current houses through the 2004-2005 academic year, several details regarding the distribution of the supplemented scholarships remain unclear.The Lawrentian has also received tenuous reports from several fraternity sources that the involved parties do not intend to release the details of the settlement for three years. According to documents obtained from the Outagamie County Circuit Court, other parties will plead into the case, resulting in a modification of the original complaint filed in September 2002.

While the fraternities and the university generally seem to be on good terms going into the final negotiations, the proposed resolution to the almost two-year old legal battle is still quite fragile. One source who is familiar with the lawsuits stated that there is a low level of trust between the university and the fraternities; as the source put it, the only wise policy is to “trust nothing until you see it in writing,” since several promises have already been broken during the course of negotiations. The source also stated that, “regarding FGH there are still unhappy people, but it remains to be seen what the settlement will do to change that.”

The parties involved have been instructed that disclosure of the details of the settlement could render the settlement null and void, and hence information regarding the source of funding for increased fraternity scholarships, the possibility of student control of the Formal Group Housing process, and other possible concessions by the university or the fraternities has not been made available. Nevertheless, court documents reveal that the university and the fraternities are committed to resolve the cases by July 15, 2004 at the latest.

The fraternity lawsuits began as four cases filed on September 23, 2002, wherein the fraternities claimed that the university had violated agreements made in 1941 and 1985 by adopting the Formal Group Housing policy and also by neglecting to award annual scholarships. The university responded by moving to dismiss the cases outright, claiming that the plaintiffs – who were alumni, not active fraternity members – lacked standing to file suit, that the claims filed in court did not present a “justiciable controversy,” and that the plaintiffs “[failed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The court, however, did not grant the university’s motion.

The four cases were consolidated for the sake of judicial economy, and the court granted a temporary injunction that prevented the university from housing non-fraternity members in fraternity houses. After these matters were resolved, the university provided a response to the original complaint, wherein it denied the allegations made against it. The cases are still pending until the July 15 target date for dismissal.