Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mitch Crane Speaks to NY Court Decisions

Judge Crane Discusses the NY Court Decisions

The decision of the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ( New York ) involving the College of Staten Island and the right of a public insitution to deny recognition to a fraternity on the basis of its violation of institutional rules prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, is disappointing, but should shock no one. This decision comes just a few years after the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ( Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) found that a public institution could prohibit membership in fraternities in certain cases.

These two decisions have much in common. The basis for both decisions is that special rights come with special responsibilites. Fraternal protections come from the unwritten but long acknowledged Right of Association. The right of fraternal organization to remain single sex comes from an exemption in Title IX. Both sets of rights are based on the presumption that fraternal organizations are: exclusive, intimite, and serve a special purpose on college campuses in that they are created to: adhere to principles, serve others, advocate a cause, obey the law, build solid citizens, etc.

The courts in both these cases looked at evidence that convinced the jurists that the very purposes that allowed special status were not being served. Therefore, if the orgainzations did not serve the purposes that allowed them to be given special status, they lose that status and the right to discriminate and the right to be recognized.

What needs to be understood by all who care about the future of fraternal organizations on campuses is that there is no future if those organization do not live up to their professed ideals. It is the failure to live up to those ideals that pressure private institutions to eliminate us and create the conditions that are resulting in the courts allowing public institutions to deny recognition of and/or ban exisiting chapters from their campuses.

The bottom line is that courts are applying to us standards that have been applied to others before us: special rights bring special responsibilites.

Mitch Crane
Regulatory Attorney
Delaware Department of Insurance
841 Silver Lake Boulevard
Dover, DE 19902
302-674-7398