Monday, January 18, 2010

Berkeley Fraternities Subject of Lawsuit

Judge denies temporary restraining order against UC Berkeley frats, but court battle looms:
Berkeley resident, neighborhood association filing lawsuit against 35 UC Berkeley fraternities
By Doug Oakley, Oakland Tribune

Violent assaults, noise, trash, urination, flying golf balls and bad behavior are the subject of a lawsuit against 35 UC Berkeley fraternities a neighbor said he plans to file Tuesday.

Paul Ghysels, who lives on Durant Avenue, and the newly formed South of Campus Neighborhood Association are plaintiffs who will ask a judge to order all the fraternities to install a live-in adult supervisor at each of the frat houses, said Ghysels' attorney, Louis Garcia.

Garcia said he plans to file the suit in Alameda County Superior Court and ask for a temporary restraining order that "would immediately prohibit the underage drinking, harassing and assaulting people and noise ordinance violations." Ghysels declined to comment until the suit is filed.

"You have these parties and all this harmful, offensive behavior, the noise, homes broken into, windows smashed, beer bottles thrown at our clients," Garcia said. "One of our clients was hit in the head by a golf ball that required emergency treatment."

He also said the lawsuit will have statements from nine homeowners and others who have been violently attacked by people connected to fraternity parties, Garcia said.

"There is one guy in the suit who had his jaw broke and another who had his arm broken in three places," Garcia said.

Grahaeme Hesp, UC Berkeley director of fraternity and sorority life, said fraternity member behavior has seen "a marked and visible improvement" since he came to UC in 2006.

Fraternities and sororities, he said, represent 11 percent of the UC student population but account for only 6 percent of the noise citations issued to university parties.

"We're dealing with over 2,000 individuals, so it's not like we are having a conversation with one person where we say, 'You have to change your behavior,' " Hesp said. "It's like trying to turn around an oil tanker in the middle of the Pacific 180 degrees."

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has represented the neighborhood south of the campus for 12 years, said Ghysels' tactic of targeting all fraternities is unfair. He said the fraternities have shown "significant improvement" in the past 10 years.

"To just treat all fraternities as if they are equally good or equally bad seems like a dangerous concept," Worthington said. "If there are specific problems in specific places, you should look at that and evaluate it, but to just make a blanket accusation is worrisome."

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