Ruling for Administrators in Sigma Chi Appeal

By Connect2Mason Director Christian Smith

The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Monday, upheld the US District Court’s decision supporting the legality of the sanctions placed on the Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity by George Mason University administrators.

According to Pam Patterson, assistant vice president of University Life and dean of students, the sanctions put into place in 2006 continue to be in effect.

According to Fourth Circuit Court documents, in 2006 the following actions were taken by the University:
1) “revoked the Chapter’s University recognition until at least Sept. 1, 2016”

2) “the Dean of Students and the Director of Student Activities were instructed “to monitor membership in [Mason] recognized fraternal organizations to insure that the current membership of Sigma Chi fraternity does not reemerge under a different name”
3) “the decision was ‘to be published as deemed appropriate by the Dean of Students in order to inform and educate the George Mason University community regarding our institutional values.’”

Sigma Chi initially attempted to file an appeal with Sandy Hubler, vice president of University Life, who rejected the appeal on June 2, 2006, according to court documents.


Despite these sanctions, members of the Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi have since participated in University sponsored functions wearing their letters. Pictured here are Chapter members participating in the 2008 freshmen move-in. Posing with them is University President Alan Merten.

“It should in no way be interpreted as [Merten] supporting the [chapter],” said Dan Walsch, University press secretary.

“Althouth it’s within the University’s ability to not recognize us as an organization, they cannot infringe on our constitutional rights such as our ability to organize and wear clothing,” said Ryan Robinson, current president of the Iota Xi Chapter.

In August 2006, according to court documents, several Iota Xi Chapter members were involved in two incidents that resulted in disciplinary actions impacting the participating individuals, including Justin Pietro and Ryan Duckwitz, plaintiffs in the suit against the administrators.

In response to these events, the Iota Xi Chapter, Pietro and Duckwitz filed a law suit on Aug. 31, 2007 originally naming Mason, Patterson, then associate dean of students, Michelle Goubadia, then associate director for Greek Life, Girard Mulherin, then dean of students, Hubler and Merten. The District Court later determined that the University could not be named as a defendant because it is considered an “arm of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In the suit, the Chapter, Pietro and Duckwitz alleged that the University and the named administrators had violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and put forth a motion for preliminary injunction of the University sanctions. The injunction was denied and in March 2008, the District Court issued a summary judgement in favor of Patterson, Goubadia, Mulherin, Hubler and Merten.

In April 2008, Sigma Chi, Pietro and Duckwitz filed an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and on Monday, the Circuit Court ruled in favor of the University administrators.

“We applaud the Court upholding the lower court’s decision,” said Walsch, “we feel that, then and still do, that it was a fair decision; hopefully one that Sigma Chi can eventually reflect on and learn from.”

“We disagree with the Court’s decision but we respect it,” said Pietro. When asked what impact the University sanctions have on the brothers of Sigma Chi, Pietro replied that they have not “had any real negative effects...[it’s] been a positive learning experience for everyone and brought everyone closer together.” In response to the questions of whether the brother’s had learned from the decision, as is Walsch’s hope, or felt remorse for the actions that effected the sanctions, Pietro said, “no comment.”

No votes yet
Student Media Group: