Court dismisses deferred rush lawsuit

The Greek organizations claimed that the University’s decision to defer rush violated Leonard Law. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

The Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit Monday filed by five Greek organizations against USC regarding the University’s deferred rush policy.

The Greek organizations — Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority and Beta Theta Pi, Theta Xi, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Chi fraternities — filed an appeal for the lawsuit, which was expedited last week after request for preliminary injunction was denied by the trial court, according to attorney Alexander Pilmer, who represents the Greek organizations suing the University.

“Students have first amendment right under the constitution that are fundamental to our country and those first amendment rights cannot be deprived in a situation like this,” Pilmer said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We felt it was important to bring this lawsuit to try to prevent the University from infringing on fundamental first amendment rights.”

However, the University acknowledged the importance of fraternities on campus, but said that the rush process was deferred since it can “impede the success of an incoming freshman already dealing with many transition challenges — both social and academic — during their semester of college academic life.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, Thomas Derken, the vice president of communications for the Interfraternal Council, said they are currently evaluating the lawsuit.

“IFC acknowledges the change and adaptation in recruitment policies,” Derken said. “We are currently in the process of further review regarding the hearing.”

According to the statement, the University has been evaluating the decision to defer rush for two years. The policy announced by vice president of student affairs Ainsley Carry in September 2017 and began being implemented this academic year.

The lawsuit claimed that USC violated the Leonard Law, which prevents private universities from making rules that would violate the First Amendment if enforced at a public university.  

“The Leonard Law extends to private school students, as a matter of discretionary state power, rights that public school students would have under the First Amendment,” David Cruz, a USC professor of law and First Amendment expert, said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “It prevents penalizing students at private schools in certain ways that would not be allowed in public schools.”

Michael Overing, a First Amendment expert and adjunct professor of Annenberg School for Communication, said that by deferring rush, USC is violating the students’ rights to join organizations on campus.

“We have a first amendment right to freely associate,” Overing wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “That includes the right to join a fraternity, student groups, clubs … The USC proposed rule runs afoul of that right because it says you have to defer your right of association.”