Univ. of Maryland lifts ban on frat, sorority events after misconduct investigation

The University of Maryland has lifted suspensions on 32 fraternities and sororities after concerns about misconduct surfaced earlier this month. Five other groups remain under investigation. Photo by blacktupelo/Wikimedia Commons

March 16 (UPI) -- The University of Maryland has lifted restrictions on 32 fraternities and sororities after it completed investigation into hazing accusations.

The university earlier this month said it banned 37 chapters of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association from recruiting new members, speaking to new members and hosting events were alcohol was present after allegations surfaced of hazing and alcohol related activities that "posed a potential threat to the safety and well-being of members of our community."

As of Friday, the university cleared 32 IFC and PHA chapters to return to normal activities.

Five other chapters remain under investigation and will continue to have "limited restrictions" on their activities.

"We recognize that temporarily pausing select activities has had an effect on our fraternity and sorority members, particularly new members," the university said in a statement. "However, we chose a course of action that prioritized safety and prevention, with the aim of assessing the reports we had received and preventing a significant health and safety incident from occurring."

The decision comes days after the national Fraternity Forward Coalition, a group representing several fraternities, filed a federal complaint against UMD over the suspension.

Students in the complaint sought a restraining order and temporary injunction against UMD. The suit listed James McShay, the interim director of fraternity and sorority life, James Bond, the director of student conduct; and Darryll Pines, the university president, as defendants.

"Finally, on the eve of Spring Break, the University of Maryland does the right thing. Sadly, it took them two weeks and the threat of a judge's ruling to do it," Wynn Smiley, spokesperson for Fraternity Forward Coalition, said in a statement issued to media outlets.

"We are astonished by the school's willingness to repeatedly violate their students' civil liberties -- their rights to freedom of association, due process and privacy -- and their own administrative procedures in chasing a meritless investigation."

UMD said all fraternity and sorority groups were warned in an "emergency meeting" in February that further allegations of misconduct would result in restrictions on the groups activities.

Despite the warning, the university said it received reports of "additional incidents" after the meeting took place, which resulted the university issuing a cease and desist order.

Attorneys representing some of the fraternities argued the university's ban on communications with new members violated their clients' First Amendment rights.

The hearing is scheduled to take place Monday in the U.S. District Court for Maryland. It is not clear how the lifting of the ban will affect the hearing.