Sunday, September 11, 2011

SigEp loses house in wake of Senior Week damages

SigEp House

Virginia Bledsoe / Tufts Daily
Brothers in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity will not be able to return to their house this year because the real estate company that owns the property refused to extend their lease after an unsanctioned Senior Week party caused damage to the building.
After an unsanctioned party during Senior Week resulted in extensive damage to the house occupied by the Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) fraternity, the group will not be allowed to return to its residence at 114 Curtis St. this fall.
As a result of the damage to the house, which included holes in walls and piles of garbage on the floor, Walnut Hill Properties, the local real estate company that owns the Curtis Street property and most other Tufts fraternity and sorority houses, declined to extend leases to SigEp members, according to SigEp President Stephen Gurdo. The brothers involved in the incident, who have since graduated, were not supposed to have access to the house, as there were no fraternity members living there at the time, Gurdo, a senior, said.
Though Gurdo reports that Walnut Hill has not initiated any legal action against the perpetrators, SigEp is saddled with the bill for the required repairs. Graduated brothers who admitted to being involved have been working together to raise the required funds, he added.
The seven current brothers who anticipated living in the house this year were unable to return, according to Gurdo. Four of them were given university housing, while the three others found rooms off campus.
The decision not to extend leases to SigEp members came after an assessment of the harm done to the house last May, according to Walnut Hill General Manager Bruce Ketchen.
"It just wasn't appropriate to offer accommodations to an organization that didn't take care of the property," he told the Daily.
In an attempt to bargain with Walnut Hill to remain in the house, Gurdo said that SigEp offered several concessions, including instituting harsher punishments for damage to the house, but was unsuccessful.
Though the Curtis Street property, which is currently empty, will not be available to SigEp members this year, Ketchen does not preclude the possibility of the group returning to a Walnut Hill property in the future.
"We will in all likelihood be working with them at some point in the future," he said. "We will have the discussion subject to the collection of the bill. … When that's been resolved, we'll discuss how we'll work with them moving forward."
Gurdo anticipates that he will begin to coordinate with Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman and Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Su McGlone soon to find a new house for the fraternity.
As SigEp's official status as a fraternity on campus has not changed, members will still have full access to university resources as they adapt to life without a house, according to McGlone.
"We're definitely going to be providing them a lot of support and assistance in the process of not having a house, and the challenges that go along with not having a house," she said. "We're definitely going to help them try to find new housing after this year."
In the meantime, the fraternity plans to continue fall and spring recruitment, though the lack of an official house may lower the number of recruits the group accepts, Gurdo said.
"It's going to be a little bit different," he said. "We're hoping to find an address that we can actually recruit towards in following years as a promise that ‘this is what we're going to have.' … It's pretty apparent how hard it is to recruit on this campus without an actual house."
Gurdo anticipates that SigEp will need to step up its efforts because of its lack of a house.
"It's going to take a stronger recruitment effort, I think, because we're going to have that weighing us down," he said.
The loss of the Curtis Street house has resulted in anger among current brothers toward the graduated seniors responsible for the damage, according to Gurdo.
"Somebody [who walked in the next day] sent pictures … and everybody was pretty much shocked by how the place looked," he said. "[The brothers have expressed] a lot of resentment … and general disgust towards those that caused the damage. There was no respect for the building."
Though the SigEp members responsible for the wreckage have graduated, Gurdo reports that the group is considering administering consequences beyond payment for the repairs.
"It's been brought up as a possibility to revoke their membership from the actual national fraternity on a permanent basis," he said.