Civil charges are dimissed in FIJI case

Last spring, members of UVM’s chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) Fraternity, were issued tickets for violating Vermont’s new hazing policy. On Nov. 29, Judge Charon True dismissed the civil charges against four members of FIJI.The basis for the hazing law stemmed from a 2000 incident at UVM involving the men’s hockey team initiating new players by forcing them to drink warm beer until they vomited. New players were then forced to hold each other’s genitals and do an “elephant walk.” When asked about the incident at FIJI by Channel 3 news, UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis said that, “They were made to dress up like gay cowboys and taunted as a result of that, based on the ‘Brokeback Mountain’ theme.” The alleged party took place on March 2, and according to UVM police reports, pledges were dressed up like cowboys and were berated with sexual epithets.”To accuse someone or an organization of hazing, you first have to prove that the conduct occurred in the context of some sort of initiation or membership or qualification procedure.The University failed to prove that,” defense attorney David Sleigh said. “We are continuing to work within the guidelines of our suspension as handed down on July20, 2006, and we look forward to the fall 2007 when we will be eligible to operate as a recognized Greek organization at UVM once more,” Joseph Thibault, graduate advisor for the UVM chapter of FIJI said.Chief Margolis told reporters after the decision that the UVM police were going to speak about the possibility of appealing the decision to the Chittenden County State Attorney’s office.Sleigh told reporters that there was a possibility that a defamation suit might be considered depending on the outcome of the University-led investigation into the matter.”I think the University proceeded in bad faith and I think it qualifies as malicious prosecution. “Whether we avail ourselves of a remedy, we’ll see,” Sleigh told The Burlington FreePress. In an e-mail sent to UVM students, the University stated, “the police report is being turned over to the Center for Student Ethics and Standards for review and consideration for possible University policy violations.The University judicial process, if warranted, will proceed with a hearing to determine organizational or individual responsibility and, as necessary, issue administrative sanctions.”