New York The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called on Chapman University, a private university in Orange, CA, to stop violating students’ rights in response to their efforts to establish a Jewish-based fraternity on the campus.
In the spring of 2006, Pascal De Maria, a Jewish student at Chapman, decided to try to establish a chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu (SAM), a Jewish-based fraternity, on the campus. At the time, there were five existing fraternities at Chapman, but not one was culturally or religiously based.
Mr. De Maria assembled approximately 20 students who shared his interest in a Jewish-based fraternity. He garnered the support for a SAM chapter at Chapman from the national offices of already-existing fraternities on campus. He worked with SAM’s national headquarters. He and others interested in establishing the SAM chapter met with Chapman administrators to accomplish their objective. He followed Chapman’s directive to submit an application for fraternity recognition in the university’s fraternity-selection process.
Chapman did not approve the SAM chapter, even though SAM was the only applicant with an established presence on the campus. When Mr. De Maria and other students continued in their efforts to establish the chapter in the hope of eventually gaining the approval of the university, the Chapman administration responded with a threatening letter to Mr. De Maria. The letter ordered him to “[i]mmediately cease advertising and/or hosting [SAM]-related events on University premises — including having students meet on University premises for off-campus events.” The letter also directed Mr. De Maria to take certain actions with respect to SAM’s national headquarters that he had no authority to take. The letter threatened that Mr. De Maria could be held responsible for violating the Student Conduct Code if the letter’s directives were not followed — even though the directives impinged on his and other students’ rights to free speech, free association, and free assembly.
Chapman’s threatening letter was copied to several of Mr. De Maria’s classmates, to university administrators, to staff members, and even to a parent of a student, in violation of Mr. De Maria’s right to confidentiality, causing him considerable embarrassment and humiliation.
Mr. De Maria began hearing rumors that he was going to be expelled or suspended. He learned that students who were expressing an interest in affiliating with the SAM group were being cautioned not to do it. And he learned that students were told to report anyone congregating for SAM purposes, pledging SAM, or wearing SAM tee shirts.
Chapman also directed the SAM group to remove its page from Facebook, a social networking Web site popular among students. Yet the University has had no problem permitting other groups, such as the “Under age Drinkers (CU Chapter)” and the “Association of Intellegent [sic] Pot Smokers,” to maintain Facebook pages.
Yesterday, Morton A. Klein, ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, sent a letter to James L. Doti, the President of Chapman, condemning the university’s actions. The ZOA’s letter said: “Your administration has engaged in a pattern of harassment and intimidation simply because Mr. De Maria and his fellow students have demonstrated their interest and enthusiasm in creating a Jewish-based fraternity at Chapman, in the exercise of their rights to free speech, association and assembly. We urge you to put a stop to your administration’s conduct, and immediately right the wrongs that have been committed .”
The ZOA’s letter called on President Doti himself to issue a written apology, on behalf of the Chapman administration, to Mr. De Maria and the students seeking to establish a SAM chapter at Chapman; to send a copy of the apology to all of the individuals who were wrongfully copied on the administration’s admonishing letter to Mr. De Maria; and to confirm in writing to Mr. De Maria and all Greek Life organizations that there will be no limitations placed on SAM students’ right to free speech, free assembly and free association.
Click here to read the ZOA’s letter to James L. Doti, President of Chapman University (pdf) https://www.zoa.org/publications/ZOAChapmanDotiOct07.pdf
The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.