The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld, but reduced an award to a University of Iowa fraternity for a clandestine tape made of alleged fraternity hazing. A student pledged the Beta Chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2000, but then couldn’t join the fraternity because of his grades.
That student rented a room for the summer from the fraternity, but was restricted from going to any fraternity functions, such as their business meeting. The student later secretly taped a fraternity meeting and submitted the tape with a complaint that the fraternity broke school alcohol policies and that taped including an incident where pledges were hazed.
The University of Iowa and national chapter of the fraternity moved to suspend the fraternity for one year for the alcohol and hazing violations. The fraternity admitted to the alcohol violations, but sued the university saying the tape recording was illegally aquired.A district court judge sided with the fraternity and awarded them liquidated damages of $98,300 for the time when the tape was used.
The court also ordered $5,000 in punitive damages against the U-I dean of students Phillip Jones, and legal fees of over $60,000. The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the ruling in favor of the fraternity, but modified the liquidated damages to $73,200. The High Court dropped the punitive damages against the dean of students and reduced the award of legal fees to just over $37,000.