The University of Central Florida and its president, Dr. John C. Hitt, were sued Thursday by student media outlet KnightNews.com, regarding UCF’s handling of its recent hazing scandals and other issues, in a public records and Sunshine lawsuit.

Dating back from Feb. 2012 to the present, the complaint seeks to remedy ten alleged violations committed by the university that range from a series of public records request violations involving the University and the University’s Student Government Association, to Sunshine Law violations which denied the public access to recent suspension hearings on anonymous hazing allegations lodged against Alpha Tau Omega at UCF.

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The timing of the lawsuit challenges the legality of the closure of Friday’s Sigma Chi suspension hearing, as KnightNews.com seeks a judicial order requiring changes by the University that would allow the public and media access to observe the hearings under Florida’s Sunshine Law. That law establishes a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities. If a judge determines that the closure is in violation of the law, he or she could effectively throw out the decision made in the secret suspension hearing.

In previous emails, the University has said that the student conduct panel is only a fact-finding body and therefore, isn’t subject to the Sunshine Law. The lawsuit, however, cites case law and UCF’s own regulations, disputing UCF’s position on the issue.

The lawsuit is aimed at showing UCF’s continued pattern of noncompliance with the Public Records Act and other Florida Statutes towards KnightNews.com. The award-winning media outlet’s lawsuit also seeks a permanent mandatory injunction as a solution to the roadblocks to public information put up by UCF.

The University has already hired Orlando law firm GrayRobinson.

KnightNews.com attorney, Justin Hemlepp Esq., provided a statement regarding the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit is about protecting the public’s rights under Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law and Public Records Act. Everyone in Florida, including Knight News, has a clear right under those laws and the state’s constitution to inspect UCF’s records and attend university board meetings where decisions are made.

“Knight News’s lawsuit alleges that UCF has committed a variety of violations of Florida’s open-government laws in the past year, including refusing to produce public records, failing to explain the legal basis for redacting from records that were produced, and prohibiting public access to board meetings where decisions concerning discipline of student organizations are made.

“Knight News is asking the court to order UCF to remedy those past violations, enjoin the university from committing future violations of the same type, and find unconstitutional university regulations that place Student Conduct Board hearings concerning discipline of student organizations outside of the Sunshine.”

KnightNews.com received a statement from UCF on Friday regarding the lawsuit.

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“UCF is committed to complying with Florida’s important open records laws,” said Grant Heston, UCF Associate Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs. “We are also dedicated to protecting student information, as we are required to do by federal law. We will vigorously defend this case.”

Continue to check back with KnightNews.com for more information.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Isn’t it funny how Knight News has not published anything about the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity suspension? Knight News has published articles about every other fraternity that has gone under investigation, but once AEPi is in trouble, there is a blackout on that subject.
    Now watch this comment get deleted.

  2. first of all UCF is not fair to all of greek life. its usually an organization from IFC. that seems always to mess things up for the whole community. BUT when its an DGC OR NPHC org that get an allegation its that organization get suspended. I hate how greek life has been run by ucf its unfair to all organizations who are not getting in trouble.

  3. First, the Greek community is the main reason for anything getting accomplished on campus… SGA elections; run by Greek Life.. SGA itself; pretty much all greek… School Athletics; are you kidding, the Greeks own at 99% of IM Sports, and we also all show up in greater numbers than anyone else, why? perhaps because we come with our brothers and sisters? (you see if you have one brother he will most likely bring another brother who brings another until, before you realize it, half your organization is there)…

    If you all are trying to suggest that Greek Life is just about drinking and getting laid, I might suggest you should walk a mile in our shoes. UCF is going to suffer, now that it just lost the main body of students that raise money for their philanthropies such as knightthon, because the school itself has disbanded them for absolutely NO REASON. And before someone thinks to retort, its not just for “no reason”, IT IS completely out of the blue, and here’s why. Fraternities and Sororities enter an agreement with their nationals when they get their charter that they must comply to a certain set of standards and rules. So how come UCF feels the need to overstep its boundaries and act as our nationals, and deem that everyone is non compliant. Think about it, would any national organization really condone the misuse of alcohol and hazing? HELL NO THEY WOULD PULL YOUR CHARTER IN A SECOND, GIVEN GOOD REASON.. IT MAKES THEM LOOK BAD! So how come the national organizations couldn’t have internally dealt with the issues, and carried our investigations, like the process normally runs.

    To cite one fraternity that actually had a similar situation… Kappa Sigma, just a few years ago stripped all of its unworthy brothers of their letters and began to rebuild from the ground up with good brothers, as deemed by nationals. Its not like nationals aren’t used to punishing chapters, they have to deal with this all the time. In fact the first thing they mention to you at the national conventions is to NOT HAZE, NO MATTER WHAT, no if ands or buts, and if you are found to be guilty of hazing, your charter and brothers will be punished heavily. Lastly, for all of you complaining that it’s the students money that will be used to defend the case, shut up, please its not like you are actually shelling out the money from your own pocket and even if the bill was astronomical, it would probably not amount to anything more than a dollar per student, and I commend KnightNews for doing something. The lawsuit justified, the school has been acting more like a corporation instead of an educational institute in recent years, i.e. the tuition hikes, despite the increased funding the school should be getting, and the almost absoluteness of any action made by their governing bodies, and limited information provided on closed door meetings, and the lack of ample classes for its own students to even graduate on time. Come on really? purely fact finding body? How does a purely fact finding body, not provide any straight facts to support its allegations. Their decision affects a great number of students, students whom by the way, have paid thousands of dollars in dues to their organizations just to be told by the school they cant participate. The school is starting to sound like Nazi Germany, just because they don’t like a particular group, they decide to invest all their time into fragmenting and destroying them, until there are no more. The University doesn’t even have ample housing for the Greek Community, they have almost forced this tradition of drinking and scandal on their students by not providing this one essential to a properly operating Greek Organization. By not providing housing, Greeks are forced to go off campus, outside of UCFs “watchful” eyes raise enough money to buy our own house and put up our own letters in such classy places as “Campus Crossings” where the shooting are a plenty, “Peg Landing” now Knights Circle thanks to the mold infestation in half their buildings, and my favorite “The Greek Ghetto” (No explanation needed for that one really, its pretty effing ghetto), Oh and if you even want to consider living on a house on campus, you have to shell out something like $50,000 for the application alone, and the chances a house will open up is slim to none. So why doesn’t UCF change the culture? instead of trying to make it more difficult for Greek Life to function, embrace the culture, actually help us out with housing, work with us in order to build a better university (not divide us all) and educate those in Greek Life about alcohol and hazing, not that any of us really need a reminder after we have all felt the pain of lost brothers and sisters to alcohol, and all have to take courses about it ad nauseam, but still it never hurts to educate more. I don’t care if you’re Greek or not, you should support your student body, the way in which this whole thing was dealt with, was poor to say the least, and does not reflect well on the judicial skills of our beloved university. We are all in college, grow up, drinking happens, just be responsible.. and obviously some people take things too far with the pledging programs, and they should be dealt with, but to punish everyone is unnecessary to say the least.

  4. @Adam, because every Greek right now has got their lettered underwear so far up their ass over it that their traffic and ad sales are probably pinging through the roof over this bullshit.
    @Jeff So the President is over dealing with allegations individually and wants you all to self police, he MUST be a dictator because you can’t get drunk on the bus before the social and fingerbang that chick from the sister sorority. The reason it’s been there for the past 100 years is tradition, and following blind tradition simply because is foolish. Weed out your bad apples.

  5. Are you serious Jeff? It’s been around a lot longer than 100 years. It was made clear this is a temporary ban, in an effort to “improve” the safety of greek life. Far from a stance that denounces greek life all together. The ban? Very much questionable of course. Why don’t you spend your brief down time engaging in I don’t know, supporting your school with genuine school spirit? Show up at sporting events and have fun. Your sanctioned events will be back soon enough. Your friends are still there. Be the leaders greeks are supposed to be for “your” school because the lack of it is what is truly pathetic. Pathetic because a school of 60k students show up less than 10k students at an equal or mostly worse school athletically. Schools like Central Florida get what they deserve in sports. No support demands mediocre recruits and mediocre results.

  6. So this lawsuit is just going to add more expense to students? I suppose it shows some form of student pride and spirit… which has hit an all time low. No one shows up to sporting events anymore. It’s disgusting that a small private school has more pride in their school than this gigantic crap hole. Sue sue away, too bad you didn’t do it 6 months ago. It would have made much more sense argumentatively. Perhaps it is time to shut down the greek and the entire universities sponsored social life for that matter. What universities students wear UF gear at a game where they are playing UF? Or wears UofM caps at a at their Central Florida graduation. A university of losers that have no school spirit and pride. Props to those students for at least showing up though. This lawsuit is vapor in my opinion.

  7. Honestly, UCF and our Dictator Hitt are pathetic canceling greek life. Hitt needs to get out and be replaced by someone who supports greek life and sees the advantages. There is a reason its been in nearly every college for the past 100 years…

  8. Will KnightNews comment on why this lawsuit was filed the day after the Greek prohibitions? If this was a year long issue of noncompliance, why the sudden lawsuit? Tipping point? Or just reacting to impulse with impulse?

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