Suspended University of Iowa fraternity cites lease dispute for ‘less than truthful’ allegations

IOWA CITY — Despite an appeal from a recently-suspended University of Iowa fraternity accused of high-risk hazing involving alcohol abuse and harassment, UI administrators upheld the decision, citing the “dangerous, potentially life-threatening, and overall heinous nature of the violations.”

In appealing its suspension through Dec. 13, 2024 — followed by two concurrent semesters of disciplinary probation — members of the Iowa Acacia Fraternity accused a UI investigator of exercising biased discretion based on erroneous facts resulting in “unduly harsh” punishment.

But UI Associate Dean of Students William Nelson rejected those assertions and arguments.

“It is my opinion that the discretion exercised by the investigator was reasonable and justified based on my review of the entirety of all of the evidence, testimony, and documentation in this case,” he wrote in his decision on the Acacia appeal.

“I have no reason to believe the findings of facts in the case are erroneous,” Nelson wrote. “Given the dangerous, potentially life-threatening, and overall heinous nature of the violations, committed individually or collectively, the sanctions are completely appropriate and commensurate with the violations.”

The UI chapter — re-founded on campus in 2015 — was sanctioned for hazing, alcohol, property, and other violations after a recent investigation revealed fraternity members in fall 2019 and at the start of the 2020 spring semester harassed new recruits and put them in dangerous situations, including ones involving alcohol.

“All new members were berated and called demeaning and misogynistic names at various times during Initiation Week,” according to a UI investigative report provided to The Gazette following a public records request.

But Acacia’s appeal argued a UI investigator “showed unwarranted favorable biases toward the reporting parties and made statements that are not supported by the evidence gathered.” It also accused those who reported the fraternity of having ulterior motives.

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“The original report was not made of good-faith and instead was used solely to help their lease dispute,” according to the Acacia appeal.

Specifically, fraternity defenders said former members who reported hazing and alcohol violations wanted out of a $12,000 lease obligation and threatened to tell on the chapter if it didn’t release them.

“Investigators glossed over the reporting party’s incentives to not be truthful in their report; their perception that reporting what they planned to report would exonerate them from a lease obligation of $12,000,” according to the appeal. “This perspective by members of the reporting parties is clearly an incentive for being (potentially) less than truthful in the reporting party’s interviews.”

The concerned students could have anonymously reported to a chapter adviser but “neglected to mention any concern for a year-plus and instead only went to the university when the lease dispute arose.”

“Throughout the lease dispute, members of the reporting parties made active threats via online communication platforms to report the Acacia Fraternity to the university unless they were fully released from their leasing obligations,” according to the appeal.

UI investigators acknowledged the lease dispute in their findings but found the reporters more credible

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University of Michigan fraternity in legal dispute after admitting women, non-binary members

ANN ARBOR, MI — The national chapter of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity is suing the University of Michigan chapter, claiming that admitting a woman and having a member who identifies as non-binary has caused harm to its trademark, a lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Sigma Phi Society on Oct. 20 in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges that the conduct of members at UM’s chapter of Sigma Phi has caused “irreparable harm to the valuable Trademarks, including infringement and dilution thereof, and to National Sigma Phi’s image, identity, and goodwill.”

The national chapter also filed a preliminary injunction to stop the local chapter from using the name.

“I am troubled that an internal dispute (where a) chapter (is) deciding to have more inclusion by broadening their membership has been met by a federal court trademark lawsuit,” said David Nacht, the Ann Arbor-based attorney representing the UM chapter.

Messages left with the Dinsmore & Shoh law firm representing Sigma Phi Society were not immediately returned, but in response to a defense brief, RJ Cronkhite, an attorney with the firm, wrote that the defendants have failed to create a valid argument regarding the trademark infringement let alone rebut Sigma Phi’s preliminary injunction request.

“Instead of focusing on trademark law, defendants’ response principally focuses on falsely accusing National Sigma Phi of violating various inapplicable laws,” Cronkhite’s response says. “National Sigma Phi finds Defendants’ accusations in this regard inflammatory, unfounded, and legally meritless, and will contest them vigorously in the due course of these proceedings.”

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Denise Page Hood heard oral arguments from both sides Thursday, but said she won’t issue a written opinion about the injunction request until next week.

Nacht provided background about the case in his response to the lawsuit. He wrote that a Sigma Phi member who identified as a man while rushing and pledging the fraternity began to identify as a woman. Around the same time, another member began to identify as gender non-binary, according to his response.

Members at the fraternity decided they would invite women to rush, and they initiated five women that semester, the response states.

Michigan Sigma Phi began circulating a proposal to amend the National Sigma Phi’s constitution and by-laws so that each chapter could dictate its own membership policy regarding gender. Michigan Sigma Phi’s alumni board told members that the best way to get the policy noticed was to publish the proposal in Sigma Phi’s quarterly newsletter, the Flame.

The publication of the summer 2017 edition of the Flame was delayed until August, and the proposal was not noticed within the 60 days required before a vote.

Shortly after, Michigan Sigma Phi elected its first female student president for the 2017-18 school year, according to court records.

In October 2019, members tried to put forth a proposal at the fraternity’s General Convention, but the proposal was blocked, Nacht wrote in the response. Female members of Michigan Sigma Phi were not allowed to participate or even

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Treaty education lacks amid N.S. fisheries dispute, Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat says

People from across the country are watching the situation unfold in southwest Nova Scotia as the fishery dispute continues.



a group of people looking at each other: Members of the Sipekne'katik First Nation, supported by other First Nations, stand on the breakwater in Saulnierville, N.S., as non-Indigenous boats protest the launch the Mi'kmaq self-regulated fishery on Sept. 17, 2020.


© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, supported by other First Nations, stand on the breakwater in Saulnierville, N.S., as non-Indigenous boats protest the launch the Mi’kmaq self-regulated fishery on Sept. 17, 2020.

Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, an organization representing Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Listuguj in Quebec, is watching closely and supporting the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

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“A lot of the issue really is that non-Indigenous Canadians just don’t know the real history of the treaties,” executive director Tanya Barnaby-Williams says. “We’re all treaty people, non-Indigenous people are treaty people as well. … It’s just that they’ve been enjoying the benefits of the treaties a lot longer than the Mi’kmaq have.”

The group says education about treaty rights needs to be at the forefront to further the conversation, especially the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752.

“We need to be treated the way that we are mentioned in the treaties… We are the original inhabitants of the territory, and as such, we have different rights,” Barnaby-Wiliams says. “That is one thing that sometimes gets misconstrued is that we somehow want to be like everybody else.”

Commercial fishers near Nova Scotia’s southwest coast say they’re concerned about conservation. But for some of those involved, tension has boiled over and violence has erupted. However, all sides are calling for more action from the federal government.

Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack was set to meet with Joel Comeau, the former president of Maritime Fisherman’s Union Local 9, on Friday but it was called off as a result of reports that non-Indigenous commercial fishers were mobilizing.

Comeau, who had previously expressed a desire to have a dialogue between non-Indigenous commercial fishers and the Sipekne’katik First Nation, only recently resigned as president.

He told Global News on Friday that his family had been threatened by non-Indigenous commercial fishers and it had left his daughter afraid to be home alone.

He said he is worried about his small, predominantly francophone community because it is depressed and “emotionally shattered” by the ongoing tensions with the Indigenous fishing in St. Marys Bay.

The 45-year-old fisher said the federal Fisheries Department has failed to include all parties in talks, and frustrations have boiled over.

Read more: Blair defends RCMP’s handling of acts of violence in Nova Scotia despite criticism

And Barnaby-Williams calls the situation “sad… it’s scary.”

She’s calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come to Nova Scotia to “see what’s going on, see the real picture of what the Mi’kmaq are doing to protect and exercise their right to fish.”

“He needs to see what his citizens are doing as a result of that,” she says.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says conversations and negotiations behind closed doors may appear like there’s not been progress made, but he’s hoping that process will help de escalate the situation.

“We find ourselves in a historic situation where

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