NEWS

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September 18, 2009

Former FIJI president sues University over alledgedly tainted suspension

Former Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) president and fourth-year Evan Dreyer filed suit against the U of C this summer, hoping to overturn a decision that has suspended him until winter.

Dreyer was suspended for covering up his fraternity’s involvement in a December fight with brothers from Alpha Delta Phi, but Dreyer claims the head of his disciplinary committee was biased against him and heard anonymous evidence, forbidden according to the University’s student guidelines.

Dreyer was president of his fraternity last December when a fight broke out at Alpha Delta Phi’s house. After her investigation of the incident, Dean of Students Susan Art said she believed members of FIJI were responsible for the beating, writing in e-mails to Dreyer that FIJI brothers were pulled off the victim. Art asked Dreyer to raise money to pay for the victim’s medical bills and “find out which members of his fraternity committed the battery,” according to court papers.

In court papers, Dreyer said he cooperated with Art fully. His disciplinary committee, however, received anonymous e-mails implicating Dreyer in a “cover-up,” instructing FIJI brothers to collectively lie about what happened during the fight to avoid blame.

“Me and Evan have agreed that my write-up will be the initial guideline,” one brother wrote to the FIJI listhost. “It may be smart to make sure everyone uses the same story as far as how big the scuffle was, etc.” Those e-mails were forwarded to Art, but Dreyer was not told who sent them.

Dreyer did not return calls for comment.

Dreyer was then suspended in May for having “misled Dean Susan Art about [his] willingness to cooperate in her investigation and soliciting members of [his] fraternity to submit incomplete or false testimony to her,” according to a letter Deputy Dean of Students Martina Munsters sent Dreyer.

Steven E. Glink, Dreyer’s lawyer, said the suspension was unfair because the University broke its own rules in allowing anonymous witnesses to provide evidence. University disciplinary regulations allow the accused to know the identity of witnesses testifying against him.

The lawsuit also alleges that disciplinary committee chairman and biology professor Michael LaBarbera was biased against Dreyer, even before any disciplinary proceedings began. LaBarbera, who helped Art investigate the Alpha Delt beating, told Dreyer by e-mail he felt that Dreyer wasn’t being truthful.

“I’m afraid I simply don’t find your portrayal of your actions with regard to Dean Art’s investigation credible,” LaBarbera wrote Dreyer on April 28, before disciplinary action was taken.

He continued, however, that disciplinary responsibility didn’t lie with him. “Indeed, I’m carefully not communicating with the Committee on this matter,” LaBarbera wrote. “I wouldn’t want my opinion to influence them.”

LaBarbera, Art, and the Board of Trustees were all named in the suit.

“If he felt that way, he should have disqualified himself from being on the committee,” Glink said. A board of review created by Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews upheld the Committee’s decision in June, finding no evidence of bias. University officials did not comment, citing the ongoing suit, and the University’s lawyer did not respond to e-mail requests.

Though a trial has not yet been scheduled, Glink said it will likely wrap up in “a couple of months.” By then Dreyer’s suspension will be served, or almost served, an issue of which Glink is well aware.

“We’re also talking about clearing his name and reputation,” Glink said. “To me and Evan, that’s equally important.”