ON Kilter: Dixie State defies 1st Amendment, why the silence?

Indigo Klabanoff | Klabanoff photo from YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1Mlxl9vpVE, Image composite St. George News

OPINION – Dixie State University is in a legal battle – though by the behavior of its administrators you would hardly know it. They are in a face-off with a senior class student, Indigo Klabanoff, and The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, over Klabanoff’s First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and association. And the whole stalemate turns on a letter, a Greek letter – or, to be clear, three.

Klabanoff has formed an association of women under the banner, Phi Beta Pi. She and other women formed the group for the purpose of camaraderie and friendship. They are not seeking affiliation with any national sorority system, they are an independent association of university women who have, befitting the source of their association, sought to be recognized as a club by the university.  But Dixie State has, for many months now, frustrated their purposes and denied them status as a campus club.

Why? Because they chose to name their club Phi Beta Pi.

Have you ever wondered what the heroes and heroines of history were thinking in the midst of the strife they faced? Do you think they knew anything more than the personal convictions that compelled them to take a stand? Did they know that what they were doing would make a difference in the lives of others who succeeded them?

If you are not up to speed on this I encourage you to read the article on FIRE’s website and get yourself acquainted with this case. It matters. It pertains to you.

(opinion continues below)

As the article states, DSU’s stance is loosely fabricated and premised on a desire to contain the public perception of the institution. Their fear is that the presence of “Greek” clubs or institutions on campus promotes a “party” image. An image, mind you that it is maintained to be one that the college is well known for in years past.

So adamant in this stance is the university’s administration, that DSU has threatened Klabanoff with legal action, police action, and diminution of her stellar academic status.

It would appear that the school is willing to go to some rather great lengths to suppress any association with a party image in lieu of an image of being a public institution that suppressed First Amendment rights.

The school even went so far as to chastise the opinion editor – former editor in chief – of the school’s paper, The Dixie Sun, for reporting on the matter.

But what is most disconcerting about all this is the glaring lack of input on the matter from the ranks of academia itself.

Save one associate professor in the university’s communications department, Rhiannon Bent, not one academic has publicly spoken up in defense of what is clearly a relevant issue to the institution of higher learning.

Where oh where are the professors of history and philosophy and even political science on this one?

In a place where the marketplace of ideas must thrive, the notion of freedom of speech is at the very core of its existence. Without it, what else could come under scrutiny of such arbitrary and biased guidelines?

If DSU can suppress freedom of expression and association of one student, what else will it suppress? The facts some assert about global warming? The theory of evolution? The necessity of the liberal arts in the academic culture? The rights of religious groups to assemble (albeit doubtful on this campus)?

If you are familiar with the intentional religious influence at this campus, these questions bear some real relevance for you.

Regardless, the point is one’s “bent” should not limit the expression of another. Suppression of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights is a bad idea for anyone, be it at DSU or anywhere else.

And Klabanoff knows this.

She is not a saucy student intent on having her way. She is a woman of the hour who has taken a stand in the face of an imposing and threatening institution that, in this time and place, needs to aspire to the highest attributes of academia. This cannot and will not be achieved with the mandate they presently are enforcing upon her, and by extension, upon all students.

Klabanoff’s stand matters. It matters to her and her future sorority sisters. It matters to students present and future who will attend DSU. And it matters to the citizens of community and a nation whose constitution as a people was made up of people like her.

The stand that Klabanoff and her “sisters” are taking deserves the support of both those who recognize and benefit from the rights guaranteed us in this nation’s founding documents. Frankly, the silence on this matter is deafening.

See you out there.


Ed. CORRECTION:  The editor of Dixie Sun News who wrote a report on Greek life was no longer the editor in chief at the time as first stated in this report, but the opinion editor.  Our apologies to Dixie Sun News’ current editor in chief for the error. The report, published Aug. 17, 2013, can be found here.

Related posts


Now available from STGnews.com

St. George News App for Android®
St. George News App for iPhone®

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 9.15.35 AM

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Bill Jordan November 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I think the administration has been watching too many of the wrong movies if they think a Greek name for a sorority is in bad taste. Seems to me the young lady is trying to promote a positive direction for herself and others, and are being ‘labeled’ by a dysfunctional administration that needs to open their eyes and look at other institutions of learning around the country. Such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc.

  • Full Story? November 1, 2013 at 9:52 am

    It seems like there must be something else going on. DSU has a Phi Beta Lambda chapter.

    • Perry November 1, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Yes, such is the case. There are plenty of Greek organizations on that campus, just not sororities/fraternities.

  • NO_SIX November 1, 2013 at 10:38 am

    It appears DSU is struggling to make the transition from a small town community college in an area where authority is rarely questioned to a university.
    As I recall the school was quite heavy-handed on suppressing some speech during the selection of a new name for the university.

  • Jennifer November 1, 2013 at 10:46 am

    As I see it, the only thing being denied Ms. Klabanoff is the official recognition as an on-campus club. She is not being denied her right to speak. She is not being denied her right to associate. Merely her ‘right’ to be recognized by the school as official. She certainly presents some valid points and should indeed press to get that recognition, however, when the article frames her struggle in terms of first amendment rights, I think they are being over-dramatic.

  • DoubleTap November 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

    The attitude and mentality of the leadership of DSU is reflected by the mentality and leadership (or lack thereof) of the City of St. George. Is it really any wonder why this young lady is being stonewalled and threatened by the DSU administration? Just take a look at the city Mayor and his sidekick, City Manager and how they “rule” the city. It is this mindset that is prevalent in this community, that “they” know what is better for you than you do. Sounds like there is other issue that are not being exposed here for the treatment this young lady is receiving at DSU. Very similar to the kind of treatment citizens receive from the city of St. George leadership. The established “townfolk” of this community need to understand and accept that this is 2013, not 1813. Change will come about regardless of what the leadership(s) of both DSU and The City of St. George want. I sincerely encourage this young lady to continue her pursuit in allowing her to exercise her first amendment rights. Just as I encourage the voters of St. George change the leadership of the city beginning with the Mayor.

    • Ken November 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Amen! The truth hurts yet the sheeple will blindly follow whatever is told from the pulpit!! You will not think for yourself or have an open mind. You will obey!!

  • Roger November 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Is she still feeling blue over this? On a more serious note, University’s all over this nation strive to cater to students feelings and allow them to thrive with their desires to be unique. Not sure why the school is giving her such a hard time over this. The old mascot is gone, the statue is gone. Isn’t this the stuff they were looking forward to enhancing the University experience? Hmmmm

  • Johnny Appleseed November 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

    The travesty here is the article itself – this is in no way a first amendment issue. If DSU doesn’t want to be associated with an already established organization based on the name of said organization, that’s the decision of the University, and is in no way “prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” as described by the first amendment.

    Furthermore, the First Amendment does not act as a blanket of protection, but applies to the creation of laws prohibiting the things listed therein. Even were Dixie to disallow their newspaper from running the story completely (as opposed to merely meting out chastisement), it would be well within the rights of the University as it is THEIR newspaper. The writers are protected from the legal backlash of their writings, but not institutional or political backlash.

  • Maggie November 1, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I agree with Jennifer. One wonders why some are so quick to yell about lost amendment rights and present such a “sketchy” case. A lot of this does not make sense at all. Although it is always a great way to get attention.

  • FIRE swallower November 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Please elaborate on how “DSU has threatened Klabanoff with legal action, police action, and diminution of her stellar academic status.”

    I have not seen the details of such actions reported elsewhere.

    • Dallas Hyland November 2, 2013 at 9:15 am

      You ask a fair question.

      Klabanoff was threatened by a member(s) of the administration by phone and by email with these things. It is well documented and a part of this case.

      The evidence of this was not mentioned in this article as it was not intended per se, to argue the merits of the case, but rather to bring attention to it and pose the question of relevance.

      Thanks for reading.

  • C November 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    It’s not the first time DSU has attempted to suppress free speech. Last year the school newspaper ran a column about sex (albeit not very well delivered) and the powers that be at DSU outright told them to pull the column. The newspaper refused. DSU seems to forget we live in a democracy and not a theocracy.

  • Big Brother November 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I think you have missed a good half of the story. Ask her how the national affiliation thing went at the beginning. There is more to this story than the slant provided here.

  • Harveyn November 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    No sense in court case. It would be dropped anyway. These Greek letters are already registered to a medical fraternity that is on many different campuses throughout the U.S. So she cannot legally use these letters for a club.

  • Harveyn November 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Is there still an underground sorority at BYU? I only knew of one. Tri Chillias. Not for sure if Chillias is spelled correctly. Originally formed because a group of girls wanted to become affiliated with the national sorority of Tri Delta or Delta Delta Delta to which I belong. This was back in the 60s or so. So the story goes Ernest L. Wilkenson wanted to join a fraternity when he attended University of Utah. Either he could not get into one or into the one he wanted to join. When he became president of BYU there were several social sororities (Don’t know about Frats). He kicked the sororities off campus and would not allow them to become campus clubs. Tri Chillias went underground. I don’t know if any others did this. They were still around in the 90s. the girls used to sit together at BYU football games and had banners that they would hold up. BYU does have national honor fraternities on campus. Almost every governor of Utah has belonged to a fraternity.

  • TSP November 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    http://dsusa.orgsync.com/clubslist there are a number of clubs whose names use greek letters, and there is at least one gender specific club (I didn’t read about all of them).

  • Joey Joe Joe November 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I shall bookmark this story so I can remind the author of its contents if/when a student ever attempts to form a KKK fraternity on campus. I’m sure his impassioned defense of the First Amendment will go on full display to defend THAT student as well. That’s right, Dallas, based on your overly-simplified “understanding” of the First Amendment, you HAVE to defend ALL alleged abrigements equally and without prejudice. Have fun with that!

    • Perry November 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Yes, this guy is single handedly destroying the STG News. I have asked the editor to watch more closely the claims he publishes. As a member of the public who respects STG News, I ask that he be removed as a journalist for them. It only takes 5 minutes of research he debunk almost everything he says, article after article. He is a cross between a tabloid and a conspiracy theory blogger, but in any case the public deserves better than this unfounded list of garb that he constantly twists and slants so he can make himself look like a revolutionary on a newspaper that is suppose to cover the news with clarity and intelligence.

      • Dallas Hyland November 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

        Perry who?

      • Randle McMurphy November 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        So — why do you read his columns ??

        • Big Sister November 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm

          seems like this guy just doesn’t like what he posts. Dallas shows the real truth of things, citing REAL web sources. If I didn’t agree with someone, i would read the articles and not just accuse someone. Lol

    • Dallas Hyland November 2, 2013 at 9:07 am

      “you HAVE to defend ALL alleged abrigements equally and without prejudice. Have fun with that!”

      You are right. I would have to defend the right of the KKK to assemble peacefully. Just as I have to defend the right of JJJ to his obviously qualified and anonymous wit.

  • ken November 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    So… this has nothing to do with the first amendment. The only thing the student is being denied is to be an acknowledged club by the University, and it’s well within the University’s rights to deny or accept a club, and has nothing to do with the First Amendment. If it’s something the student truly believes in then by all means fight for it, but don’t make it bigger then it is or blow the story out of proportion.

    • AD November 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      This has gotten completely ridiculous and blown out of proportion. You are so right!

    • Observer November 5, 2013 at 6:40 am

      Actually, it has everything to do with the First Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States has long held that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Or the right to assemble. Everyone who thinks it is within DSUs right to do what they are doing need to do some research into case law. Here, I will help you: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969); Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972). They don’t have the right to do what they are doing.

  • Kerry Bray November 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Small Town USA, run by old timers whom forget they were once young and had the desire to make changes to the rules of their forefathers. This town is going to move forward and fighting change doesn’t stop change it just makes it more difficult. If the leaders of this community want to go back in time just move up the road a few miles and take all your wives with you

  • Tracie November 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    They want to avoid Greek names? The English honor society at DSU is called Sigma Tau Delta.

  • Anon November 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    This article is highly one-sided. So many pertinent details were left out of this article. Like the fact that Klabanoff is using copy-righted material of another, larger sorority. Or the fact that a separate national (Greek) organization has expressed their disapproval of Klabanoff’s efforts directly to the school. There are many controversial points to this story but I highly doubt first-amendment rights (aside from Klananoff’s use of copy-righted material) is part of it. Get your facts straight before you publish something so one-sided.

    • Dallas Hyland November 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Both of the “facts” you have listed as pertinent details left from the op/ed are false. Copyright law is no argument here and, from what I researched, the only people making that case are the administration. Also, the organization that expressed disapproval had been misled by someone in the administration to believe Klabanoff was representing their group without consent. It proved to be a false allegation apparently used by the administration to scare Klabanoff. As for doubting the merits of First Amendment breaches, that is something for the lawyers to haggle out for sure. FIRE is a nationally recognized organization and cites case law and precedent in its letters to DSU.

      The facts in this article are straight.

    • AD November 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      I completely agree Anon.

  • ladybugavenger November 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    I smell retaliation against klabanoff

  • Anon November 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    DSU has gone to great length to cover thing up that will put a dark light on the University, including a student busted for multiple forceful unwanted sexual advances, and then forced the victims sign contracts agreeing not to report to the police under threat of expulsion or lawsuit. The administration does not have the students best interests in mind.

  • AD November 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Well, perhaps she shouldn’t have stolen the name of a well-established fraternity, merely swapping the order of the words in their name, and stolen their mission statement and guidelines when attempting to charter this club. No university, college, or even high school tolerates plagiarism. Nor do they tolerate students blatantly defying their tentative decision and strutting around in shirts with this name after DSU was already warned by said fraternity that if this club should go forth, they will take legal action against the university. They are putting the higher education of everybody at risk just so they can have a social club that unlike an affiliated Greek club, will have no lasting influence in it’s members lives. A legitimate fraternity/sorority has life long benefits such as networking opportunities and alumni gatherings. This is merely an attempt to create a social hierarchy at DSU.

    • Observer November 5, 2013 at 6:29 am

      I think you mean “well established sorority.” And by the way, the University lied, speaking about plagiarism, about this and now that “well established sorority” is supporting Indigo. No free society tolerates despotism from a public university. And if a “legitimate” frat/sorority has life long benefits, then the college should establish them, not try to squash them. Perhaps someone should tell them that it is a university they are running, not a Sunday school.

  • Observer November 5, 2013 at 6:22 am

    All the comments about this article being one-sided have somehow missed that this is an opinion piece, not a news piece. The author of said opinion is an opinion columnist. He does not have to present both sides. That being said, Dixie State University is flat out discriminating against this girl in the name of…not being seen as a party school? First, there is no chance of that, so they can breathe easy. Second, they have Greek organizations on campus. Allowing one but not another is unconstitutional. It’s not okay to discriminate based on sex, age, religion, etc. We all know this. DSU is not BYU. It is a public university that gets federal funding. The funding should be cut off until DSU can act like an institution of higher learning. Furthermore, prestigious universities around the nation have fraternities/sororities, and they have sterling reputations. Is DSU somehow better than those other institutions? Hardly. The name DIXIE is appropriate. They have a long and still standing reputation of discrimination. If I were them, that’s what I would be worrying about…not partying (which will happen regardless of their religious imposition.)…and that’s not their right anyway. They should be concerned about education, not being the religious PR police.

    • Facts ring true November 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Observer, please take read this as I debunk your entire theory using facts and logic. 1st you said that it is unconstitutional that the university allows one sorority but not the other. No where in the constitution will it state a college is required to accept all sororities under the college’s name. It doesn’t there is no law requiring that. 2nd the columnist and you defend that this is about the 1st amendment. as the 1st amendment states we have freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, petition That student has every RIght to say what she feels, write, publish, petition the school, she can assembly students if she feels it unjust. Dixie’s state university never or can they take those god given rights away from her. However they still have their right as a board of the university to still deny her her petition. 3rd you said there was a Supreme Court decision on this case proving the university doesn’t have the legal rights to deny her her claim. I would ask you did you even read about what that case was about and then second what the ruling was? Because the case was about students not able to demonstrate through clothing and speech at school their dislike for war… That is freedom of speech …here is their full response . “The court observed, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”[2] Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion, holding that the speech regulation at issue in Tinker was “based upon an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression, even by the silent symbol of armbands, of opposition to this Nation’s part in the conflagration in Vietnam.” The Court held that in order for school officials to justify censoring speech, they “must be able to show that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” allowing schools to forbid conduct that would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”[3] The Court found that the actions of the Tinkers in wearing armbands did not cause disruption and held that their activity represented constitutionally protected symbolic speech……………………………………………. I would ask the next time you want to put your arguments online do your research. And for the person who wrote this. True journalism is getting facts and quotes from both sides not just your opinions of why you think the school board isn’t allowing her to have her club.

  • Jeff Peterson November 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm


    Please sign this petition if you side with Indigo in the fight for equal representation of clubs at Dixie State.

  • Mr. Tickles November 10, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    My guess is someone in admin got an uncomfortable … at the thought of a sorority and pledged by grace of God to never it to happen on his watch.
    Ed. ellipsis

  • Joel November 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    1st world problems…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.