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