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Statement

For immediate use

May 4, 2006 -- No. 242

Chancellor Moeser comments on dismissal of AIO case;
judge agrees with university's position of mootness

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser issued this statement after receiving an opinion filed today (May 4) by Judge Frank Bullock Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in a case involving the university and Alpha Iota Omega, a student religious fraternity:

"We are pleased that Judge Bullock has agreed with the university's position: this case is moot. Our successful motion to dismiss the case and the plaintiff's claims reflected good-faith voluntary efforts to clarify the university's existing non-discrimination policy, which had been repeatedly misinterpreted or misunderstood by the plaintiffs - a fact duly noted by the court.

That non-discrimination policy specifically refers to student groups that select their members based on a commitment to a set of beliefs, such as religious or political. Under the policy, groups are permitted to limit their membership and participation in organizational activities based on their belief systems as long as no student is excluded on the grounds of a specific status category. In his opinion, Judge Bullock called the university's policy constitutional and "an acceptable and thoughtful balance of the interests of (the university) to foster diversity, safeguard academic freedom, encourage intellectual discourse, and discourage discrimination and disruption. "

"The court's opinion also noted that Alpha Iota Omega currently is an officially recognized student organization at the university. AIO remains in good standing with access to all accompanying rights, including priority access to university facilities for meetings and funds from Student Congress if requested. Contrary to AIO's claims, the university never withdrew recognition.

"We believe this ruling affirms the university's central position since the case began. There is value in having a non-discrimination policy at a public university. Our objective remains seeking to carefully balance our students' First Amendment rights with the rights guaranteed by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions to equal protection of the laws and freedom from discrimination."

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Court opinion: http://www.unc.edu/news/us_district_court_opinion.pdf
Non-discrimination policy: www.unc.edu/campus/policies/studentorgnondiscrim.html

News Services contacts: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, or Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093