Four fraternities are asking a federal court to block the University of Maryland, College Park’s suspension of new member program activities, claiming that their First Amendment rights are being violated.

Two weeks ago, university officials essentially halted Greek life and barred current members from talking to new and prospective members in response to concerns about possible hazing. In a letter, they prohibited fraternities and sororities from hosting on- or off-campus events where alcohol is present.

The petition, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, was filed by the UMD chapters of Theta Chi, Kappa Alpha Order, Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Tau Omega, along with three students listed as John Doe.

“The directives that members of these chapters may not speak to one another about what the University is doing is clearly an infringement upon First Amendment freedoms of speech,” wrote attorneys Alfred Dumetz Carry and Micah Kamrass in the motion for a temporary restraining order.

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The attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Thursday, a university spokesperson said: “The University of Maryland expects to update its campus community tomorrow on the status of the investigation that was launched to prioritize the well-being of our students. We won’t comment further on the recent court filing, other than to state that our process is in line with university policies and puts safety at the forefront.”

The university had previously said in a statement that it planned to “engage an external resource to assist with an investigation that moves as quickly as possible.”

The motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction — to halt the suspension — was filed against two administrators who wrote the university’s March 1 cease-and-desist letter: James Bond, the director of student conduct, and James McShay, assistant vice president and interim director of fraternity and sorority life. Also named as defendants in the petition were Patricia Perillo, the vice president for student affairs, UMD President Darryll Pines and the University of Maryland.

The four fraternities that filed the petition were among 21 fraternities and 16 sororities that were suspended. The suspension letter voiced concern that groups were “conducting activities that have threatened the safety and well-being of members of the University community.”

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In addition to imposing a social moratorium and suspending new member programs, the letter directed members of fraternities and sororities to have no contact with new or prospective members. “Failure to abide by this directive will result in disciplinary action,” the letter stated.

The day before the letter was issued, university officials had warned Greek life members in an emergency meeting that allegations of misconduct could result in suspension. “Despite that warning, additional incidents regarding fraternity and sorority organizations were reported today,” Bond and McShay wrote.

Days later, the university acknowledged there wasn’t a single incident that had led to the cease-and-desist letter: “Our decision was made to prevent such a significant incident,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Judson Horras, president of the North American Interfraternity Conference, told The Baltimore Banner on March 5 that only one fraternity was under investigation for hazing at the time, but that all of the Greek organizations were being disciplined.

Before filing the petition, national Greek life leaders asked the university to lift the blanket ban on social activities because it was too broad. The university did not respond to that request. Now the issue has landed in the courts.

“This punishment, which is now in its thirteenth day with no end in sight, has denied college students their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights in a significant manner,” Kamrass wrote in the complaint filed Wednesday. “To have their rights restored, the University is requiring that students submit to a mandatory interrogation by attorneys retained by the University under threat of discipline for refusal to comply.”