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Epsilon Theta Files to Preserve Letters

By Jennifer Lane
Staff Reporter

The independent living group Epsilon Theta filed a court complaint Friday against the national fraternity Sigma Nu to defend the use of its name. For historical reasons, Sigma Nu intends to name its recently chartered MIT chapter "Epsilon Theta of Sigma Nu."

The dispute has its roots in ET's former affiliation with Sigma Nu. ET was originally chartered as the "Epsilon Theta chapter of Sigma Nu" in 1924. Sigma Nu terminated its charter when ET went coed in 1974 and elected a woman president, said Catherine Fricks, president of the ET Corporation.

ET has filed an injunction to stop Sigma Nu from using the chapter name under a federal law preventing unfair competition, said ET attorney Ieuan Mahony. The law prevents organizations from using misleading or deceptive names, Mahony said.

ET has been trying to negotiate with Sigma Nu on the issue for two years, Fricks said. Originally, ET only wanted Sigma Nu to use a different chapter name, she said. However, "since we were forced to go to court and incur this expense we decided to ask for expenses and damages from Sigma Nu," she said.

"We're really upset that Sigma Nu has forced us to go to court over this matter," she said. "We certainly didn't want to go to court. We would have been happy just to negotiate on the basis of the name," she said.

For its part, the MIT Sigma Nu group has not yet received a formal name because the matter is still in legislation, according to Anthony Niewyk, the group's attorney. Sigma Nu still has the intention of naming the chapter Epsilon Theta, and has not officially agreed to reject the name, Niewyk said.

The dispute is solely between the ET Corporation, made up of alumni and undergraduates, and the national Sigma Nu organization, Fricks said. ET has no problems with the local chapter of Sigma Nu, she said.

There is also concern over how ET's alumni would be affected. Typically when a chapter is revived, it contacts old alumni for support, according to Neal H. Dorow, assistant dean and adviser for fraternities and sororities.

"Epsilon Theta alumni don't feel Sigma Nu should capitalize on that. If Sigma Nu wants to come back on campus, they should return as a completely new group, not as a revision of Epsilon Theta," Fricks said.

ET felt that alumni affiliated with the Epsilon Theta chapter of Sigma Nu were its alumni, not the new Sigma Nu's, Dorow said.

The two groups will present their cases in U.S. district court on May 4.