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Fraternity accused of ‘raping girls’ can sue student activists for libel, professor says

Advice to student activists: If you’re going to accuse an entire organization of “raping girls,” you’d better have a shred of evidence to back it up or you could get sued for libel.

The Ohio University Student Union, a liberal activist group, passed out a “tip sheet” Sunday saying the Acacia fraternity is “notorious” for “drugging their free drinks [at parties] and raping girls,” The Post reports:

Photos of the sheet appeared online, but were removed quickly.

Ryan Powers, a member of the OU Student Union, said Sunday night that the tip sheet was part of the union’s 10-page “disorientation guide.”

“We, the Student Union, believe in warning people because Acacia are notorious for this certain behavior,” Powers said. “We stand by our statements, however, we did not intend to implicate individual members of Acacia fraternity.”

Powers’ dissembling  notwithstanding, the Student Union could be sued for libel, according to Eddith Dashiell, a communication law professor:

“If this is a national organization, then the court may rule that the frat would have to prove actual malice,” Dashiell said in an email. “The creators of the pamphlet is (sic) accusing the fraternity of illegal activity. If I were the fraternity’s attorney I would force the creators of the pamphlet to prove that their accusations are true.”

It’s the second time in a year the frat has been accused of systemic rape based on rumors and hearsay.

A Post columnist last fall even implied the frat would target her with “violent acts” for encouraging students to sign a petition asking the university to investigate what she acknowledged were just “rumors” – local police told her no one “involved” had ever come forward to file a report against the frat.

The widely distributed accusation was too much for a self-described “member of the Greek community” who goes by “Danielle E,” who created a blog to savage the Student Union for its “slander.”

The writer said the “tip sheet” was actually a pamphlet handed out to freshmen at the “involvement fair” sponsored by the Student Union:

Secondly, the “blue house” has open parties. For those of you who do not know what that means, its when everyone and their mothers can get into those parties. So what does that have to do with anything? Well it means that once upon a time, a random person (not associated with ACACIA) could have roofied some poor girl. …

Let us now talk about the fact that this pamphlet was handed out to thousands of students. THIS pamphlet straight up called out a fraternity for being rapists. How did someone think this was okay to give out? Well is not, actually its called SLANDER, which is illegal might I add. I did not see any facts that backed up this statement.

Read the Post story and the blog.

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