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What Makes a Fraternity a "Social" One that Exempts It from Title IX?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Feb 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

In our last blog post, we looked at a recent court ruling that threw out a Title IX claim that fraternities had to admit women, or else they were committing gender discrimination. The case was an easy one because the Title IX statute explicitly states that the “membership practices” of social fraternities or sororities are not regulated by Title IX law.

But that begs an important question: What is a “social” frat or sorority?

Social Versus Professional Fraternities and Sororities

The difference between social and professional fraternities and sororities is evident to any student on campus. Social frats tend to have:

  • Frat houses, either on campus or just off of it
  • Parties
  • Regular or annual events
  • Intramural teams
  • Unique protocols or traditions

Professional frats, on the other hand, tend to have:

  • Very few meetings
  • GPA requirements
  • Membership restricted to only a few majors
  • A focus on volunteering

Social Greek Life tends to dominate a student's college experience. For members of a professional Greek Life organization, it can be easy to forget that they are in one.

Where the line gets drawn, though, isn't always easy.

The Office for Civil Rights' Test

To help distinguish social from professional fraternities and sororities, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) created a test. If the answer to any of the following three questions was “yes,” it was evidence that a particular a Greek Like organization was a professional one, and not a social one:

  1. Is membership limited to people in a particular major or field of study or profession?
  2. Is membership limited to people with a high level of achievement or scholarship, like a GPA requirement?
  3. Can a member also be a member of another Greek Life organization, as well?

Test Doesn't Answer Everything

Unfortunately, the OCR's test is not final. The Office admits that other factors are important in some instances, and insists that “these determinations should be made on a case by case basis.” Needless to say, this completely undermines the legitimacy of the three-part test. If there are three questions to ask, but also other questions or factors that can also be considered, then the three-part test is meaningless and does not answer the pressing question of whether an organization has to comply with Title IX law.

Title IX Defense Lawyer and National Advisor Joseph D. Lento

As we'll discuss in our next post, the uncertainties that are created even by the OCR's attempts to make Title IX law more certain and reliable are ubiquitous and prevent people from understanding what they can and cannot do on college campuses across the country.

Until lawmakers step up and make it clear what is permissible on campus, people are going to continue to face legal allegations over things that they were unaware might be against the rules.

That is where Joseph D. Lento can help. He is a national Title IX advisor and a defense lawyer who represents students, faculty, and staff members who have been accused of sexual misconduct. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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