Appeals Court Sends Lawsuit Back to DistrictCourt

The United StatesCourt of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision that permits fourfraternity chapters at Hamilton College to maintain a lawsuit against thecollege.

The court's decision was issued on procedural grounds and reverses the earlierdismissal of the fraternities' lawsuit by U.S. District Court Judge RosemaryPooler in April 1996. In their written ruling, the panel of appeals courtjudges emphasized that they expressed no opinion on the merits of thefraternities' claim that the college's residential life policy violated theSherman Antitrust Act. The appeals court simply found that Judge Poolerprematurely dismissed the fraternities' lawsuit without giving them their dayin court.

"We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals did not uphold the DistrictCourt's decision, but we are confident that as the proceeding moves forward thecollege's residential policy will be upheld fully," said Hamilton PresidentEugene M. Tobin.

The case has now been sent back to the U.S. District Court in Syracuse. JudgePooler had found that the fraternities failed to allege any claim against thecollege that is recognized under the federal antitrust laws.

The college's residential life policy was adopted by its Board of Trustees inMarch 1995, after more than two years of extensive review. In adopting thepolicy, the Board reaffirmed the college's commitment as a residential college,at which students live and dine together in a variety of residential and socialspaces and settings, and where all students would have equal access to allresidential and social options.

Tobin said the decision by the appeals court will have no immediate effect onthe college's operation.

"The impact of the trustees' residential life policy has been extremelypositive," Tobin said, "and the college will continue to defend its positionvigorously. In the two years since the new policy was adopted we have enrolledour strongest first-year class in a decade and set records for alumni giving.The residential life policy is clearly having the impact we had hoped itwould."

Hamilton College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college ofapproximately 1,650 students. It was chartered in 1812.

The four fraternities that brought suit against the college are Alpha DeltaPhi, Psi Upsilon, Sigma Phi and Delta Kappa Epsilon.

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