COURT ORDERS UCF AND BETA TO MEDIATION
The Fifth District Court of Appeal has ordered the University of Central Florida and the UCF chapter of Beta Theta Pi to mediation in an attempt to settle their dispute regarding the charges that led to the Fraternity’s two-year suspension imposed earlier this year. According to court records, UCF and the Fraternity must complete mediation by August 7.
Earlier this year, the school charged the Fraternity with a number of violations of the Golden Rule, including sexual misconduct, based on a statement in a police report by a woman in Ohio. In her statement, the Ohio woman originally claimed that approximately 15 students in the Fraternity had sex with her while she was intoxicated. Although the woman declined to press charges and asked the police not to pursue the case, the police report was forwarded to UCF. After the University charged the Fraternity with sexual misconduct, the woman subsequently changed her story and admitted that she remembered having sex with only one person, a man (also allegedly intoxicated) who was not a UCF student. No Fraternity students were found to have committed any violations of the Golden Rule.
However, the University refused to drop its case against the Fraternity. It ultimately found the group responsible for the sexual misconduct and suspended Beta for two years, because the incident occurred on a trip sponsored by the organization. The Fraternity argues that this policy leads to illogical and unintended results that create an extremely bad precedent for UCF and all campus organizations—for example if this incident had occurred at the woman’s sorority house, the Fraternity argues that UCF’s reasoning would require that the entire sorority be held responsible and suspended as well. If someone were to break into an organization’s office and commit a theft, that group would be held responsible and sanctioned because the misconduct occurred on their premises..
In June, the Fraternity filed an appeal against the University in the Fifth District Court of Appeals, challenging the charges, the decision, and the sanctions leveled against it. Among the reasons given for the Fraternity’s challenge include its claim that because the Florida Board of Governors failed to enact the necessary legislation, UCF has no authority to enact or enforce the Golden Rule. The Fraternity also claims that there is no evidence to support the school’s decision, and that the school committed repeated and significant violations of its own Golden Rule and the Fraternity’s legal rights throughout the proceedings.
In addition to appealing the University’s decision and sanctions, the Fraternity also is preparing to file civil lawsuits against the University and six individuals employed by the school, demanding compensation for damages. The Fraternity says that these legal actions are similar to those currently pending on behalf of the Duke lacrosse team players. Although Duke entered into settlements with the players who were indicted and then were found to be innocent, the other players on the team whose season was cancelled after the false allegations have also sued that school for millions of dollars in damages.
Although UCF recommended that Beta Theta Pi’s national office also suspend the UCF chapter, the national office of the Fraternity declined to do so. Therefore, the chapter will continue to operate during its suspension, although it will not be affiliated with the school during that time.
A Fraternity representative stated that the chapter plans to release a statement to the press and additional information during the first week of the Fall semester.