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Hazing News

Chapter vs. national–the Wyoming case

Casper Star-Tribune newspaper breaking news

By PHIL WHITE
Star-Tribune correspondent

Friday, March 7, 2008 11:03 PM MST

LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming will pay $30,000 in attorney fees to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by four Sigma Nu members after the university suspended the students and the fraternity for an alcohol incident at the Sigma Nu house in September.

In a cryptic press release from UW late Friday, university officials said a settlement had been reached “regarding an incident last fall involving allegations of hazing.” The word “hazing” had not been used previously in news reports about the case. Jim Kearns, a UW public relations official, said Friday afternoon that he could not comment on the matter.

The release says, “The students agreed to accept responsibility for their actions in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct and are complying with educational requirements imposed by the university.” In return, UW acknowledged “that student disciplinary procedures were not fully followed,” the release states.

To ensure the privacy of the students, the release says, “the parties have agreed not to further discuss either the terms of the discipline imposed on the students or the litigation.”

In December, Sigma Nu’s national organization, the local chapter, the corporation that owns the house and UW signed an agreement under which Sigma Nu will be suspended until January 2009 and must adhere to a strict disciplinary requirement to regain status as an active fraternity at UW.

The agreement prompted Laramie attorney C.M. “Steve” Aron, hired to represent four of the Sigma Nu students, to blast the national fraternity for not standing up for “its own members who were wrongfully accused.”

Aron represented Remington W. Burley of Gillette, Garrett Ricks of Douglas, Elijsha Eckhardt of Gillette and John Whitmire of Georgia in the civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court against UW. The lawsuit will be dismissed as a result of the settlement.

Sigma Nu was suspended amid allegations of dangerous levels of intoxication at the fraternity house. The charges were linked to a video, briefly posted on the Internet, that showed footage of pranks and drunken students.

The lawsuit claimed UW violated Whitmire’s first amendment rights by punishing him for posting the video to his facebook.com page.

In an interview last year, Aron claimed the events shown on the video were “of the standard sort that are customary and standard practices at universities and colleges throughout the United States.”

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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