IOTA XI Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University

993 F.2d 386 (1993)

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IOTA XI Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
993 F.2d 386 (1993)

Facts

The IOTA XI Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity (the fraternity) (plaintiff) was a student organization at George Mason University (defendant). The fraternity held an annual Derby Days event on campus to raise money for charity and entertain fellow students. The fraternity held an “ugly woman contest” as part of the Derby Days events. The contest was held on campus and involved members of the fraternity dressing as caricatures of different types of women. One particular member dressed as an offensive caricature of an African American woman. The contest was intended as satire and humor. Yet, numerous students complained that the event was offensive, and the fraternity apologized. University administrators believed that the fraternity’s conduct sent an improper message that racial and sexual issues should be taken lightly and that this was contrary to the university’s mission of promoting diversity. The university sanctioned the fraternity, banning all activities for the remainder of the school year and implementing a two-year ban on certain social activities. The fraternity filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that its First Amendment rights had been violated. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the fraternity, and the university appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sprouse, J.)

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