Quest to bring Greek life to Dixie pits school officials against would-be sorority

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

A petition to lift the ban against Greek organizations on Dixie State University's campus has school officials fortifying their policy against them while 19 prospective sorority sisters turn to student rights advocates.

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ST. GEORGE — A petition to lift the ban against Greek organizations at Dixie State University has school officials fortifying their policy while 19 prospective sorority sisters turn to student rights advocates.

Indigo Klabanoff, a broadcast journalism major set to graduate in the spring, is asking the newly minted university to recognize the sorority she has dubbed Phi Beta Pi as an official campus club. Klabanoff first approached the school about organizing a sorority a year ago, and despite the school's opposition began recruiting members this spring.

"It was really important to me, the sisterhood, the leadership experience, and the home-away-from-home atmosphere," said Klabanoff, who said she has wanted to pledge a sorority since she was young. "When I realized there weren't sororities at Dixie, I was a little upset, so I said, 'This is my time. … It's time to have some good leadership, some good morals and better understanding of what Greek life really is.'"

The university flatly denied Klabanoff's initial petition, saying it didn't want the perceived partying and drinking culture often associated with Greek life to be linked with the school.

"The Dixie State University administrative team and board of trustees have carefully considered both the positive and negative aspects of hosting fraternities and sororities on this campus," university officials said in a statement. "The judgment of both the DSU administration and trustees is that more students would be repelled rather than attracted by the 'partying' stereotype typically associated with a Greek system, and that is not the culture we want to encourage on our campus."

The school has since amended its bylaws governing campus clubs to specifically exempt Greek fraternities and sororities from receiving charters.

Klabanoff, who holds the title of Phi Beta Pi president, insists her organization promises more than parties and has declared the group's motto to be "Loyalty, personal integrity and timeless friendship through sisterhood," according to a Facebook page she created in May.

Klabanoff has taken her plight to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in hopes that growing publicity will put pressure on administrators to reconsider their staunch position. FIRE penned a letter to the school in August claiming the Greek ban violated student rights.

Further, Klabanoff claims a campus official implied in a phone call that her academic standing could be in jeopardy if she continues her campaign.

But Dixie Dean of Students Del Beatty said the school's position against Klabanoff's sorority runs deeper than concerns about a few parties.

One problem lies in the organization's name: Phi Beta Pi is the name of a medical fraternity in Texas. The name also runs afoul of an existing sorority, which complained earlier this year.

Klabanoff said she selected the group's letters by inverting the name of Pi Beta Phi, a 146-year-old national women's organization, as a tribute to the sorority.

In August, the longstanding organization contacted Klabanoff's group telling them to stop using trademarked names, colors, insignia and mottos affiliated with the official Pi Beta Phi.

Klabanoff responded the same day, saying she had removed trademarked materials and that other aspects of the group, while similar, were sufficiently different to distinguish her group, which claims no affiliation.

FIRE claims the dispute between the two organizations has been resolved. A representative from Pi Beta Phi did not respond to confirm whether the sorority has any ongoing concerns.

However, Dixie remains concerned that the constitution Klabanoff submitted contained language apparently lifted from Pi Beta Phi's website, Beatty said.

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