By Marwa Barakat, Shifra Dayak, Marijke Friedman, Sam Gauntt, Akshaj Gaur and Natalie Weger

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better reflect that the university investigation into IFC fraternities alleged that the chapters engaged in physical abuse and hazing activities. This story has also been updated to better reflect that the investigation’s results were about fraternity chapters.

The University of Maryland’s Kappa Alpha Theta sorority chapter is suing the university for denying students’ right to free speech, according to court documents filed Thursday.

In the lawsuit, Kappa Alpha Theta alleged that this university unlawfully restricted free expression when it issued a cease and desist order for all Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association organizations on March 1, according to court documents.

PHA member Kappa Alpha Theta and six anonymous individuals designated as Jane Does are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland.

The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction against this university and unspecified damages, according to the court filings.

Student conduct director James Bond, assistant vice president for engagement James McShay, student affairs vice president Patty Perillo, university president Darryll Pines and this university are named as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit alleged that several university administrators forced students into “interrogation by attorneys retained by the University under threat of discipline for refusal to comply” during its investigation into IFC and PHA fraternities and sororities.

The plaintiffs said university administrators “engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination to remove certain ideas or perspectives from a broader public debate,” according to court documents.

Micah Kamrass, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said this university “trampled on the constitutional rights of all the women who are members of sororities” when the cease and desist was in place in a news release Thursday from the National Panhellenic Organization. Kamrass deferred to the release in response to a request for comment from The Diamondback.

This university placed the cease and desist order on all 37 IFC and PHA fraternities and sororities after receiving reports of activities that harmed students’ “safety and well-being,” according to a letter Bond sent to new IFC and PHA members. The order was lifted two weeks later for 32 chapters, including Kappa Alpha Theta.

On March 13, four IFC fraternities petitioned the U.S. District Court of Maryland for a restraining order against the same university administrators listed in Kappa Alpha Theta’s lawsuit. The restraining order would prevent this university from imposing restrictions on “ordinary social and philanthropic activity,” The Diamondback reported in March.

In a motion to dismiss the fraternities’ case, this university released details from an internal investigation into IFC and PHA organizations’ activities. The investigation found that fraternity chapter members were allegedly beaten with paddles, burned with cigarettes and torches, made to lay on nails and made to consume items such as living fish, chewing tobacco and urine, according to court documents filed by this university in March.

[4 fraternity chapters petition for restraining order against UMD administrators]

IFC and PHA organizations were prohibited from holding events with alcohol and contacting new members about fraternity and sorority-related matters during the cease and desist order.

This university originally issued a no contact order on March 1 that prevented all IFC and PHA fraternity and sorority members from having any contact with new members or prospective new members, according to lawsuit documents.

The original order prohibited all speech between new members and active chapter members.

On March 6, Bond and McShay sent an amended order clarifying that only contact related to Greek life organizations were prohibited, according to lawsuit documents.

This university hired a consulting firm to conduct more than 150 interviews with members of IFC and PHA organizations as part of its investigation, according to a campuswide letter by Perillo on March 15 .
During the interviews — which Kappa Alpha Theta’s court filings call “interrogations” — some students’ cell phones were “improperly searched by investigators,” according to the sorority’s court filings. Students’ attorneys were also not allowed to accompany them, according to the documents.

In a statement to The Diamondback Thursday evening, this university said it does not have direct comment on Kappa Alpha Theta’s lawsuit.

According to the university statement, the interviews with PHA and IFC members were conducted both in-person and remotely and were not recorded by the university or the consulting firm INCompliance.

A majority of students chose to bring an advisor, which could be legal counsel, to join them, the university said in the statement. No advisors were turned away, the statement said. Students were also not required to turn over evidence that may be stored on personal devices such as phones, according to the statement.

“This temporary and narrow pause was prompted by reports, over a relatively short period of time, of concerning hazing behaviors and harmful alcohol-related activities within the fraternity and sorority community,” the statement said.

Restrictions remain in place for five IFC chapters under investigation for hazing and alcohol-related activities. These chapters are Kappa Alpha Order, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Sigma Kappa, Sigma Nu and Zeta Beta Tau.

The Kappa Alpha Theta sorority chapter did not immediately respond to request for comment.

This story has been updated.