New Ruling on Secret Tape of Hazing

February 22, 2009

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a fraternity had the right to sue the University of Iowa for its use in a disciplinary hearing of a tape – made secretly and illegally – of hazing activities. But the court also reduced damages awarded by a lower court. The tape was made by a student who lived in the Phi Delta Theta house, but who was not a member of the fraternity. While he could not attend fraternity initiations, he was able to leave a recorder in the room where they took place. A lower court ordered damages to be paid by both the university and Phillip Jones, who was at the time of the dispute vice president of student services. The lower court ordered the university to pay $100 for each day the fraternity was suspended (a total that was nearly $100,000). But the Supreme Court found that because the punishment was for both hazing and alcohol violations, the payments should be recalculated to cover time related only to the hazing charges. Further, because Jones did not know it was illegal to use the tape, the court said he could not be found personally liable.

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