Below is an e-mail I received from the alumni treasurer of the Chi Phi Rho Chapter following the posting of my entry from Tuesday. I have corrected the points #1 and #3 below in the original entry. Of particular interest is the link to the chapter’s website and litigation updates. They have an alumnus in the courtroom taking excellent notes for distribution via the website. The full series is worth reading. Due to scheduling issues, the next trial date is set for next Monday, August 20th. I will post an update sometime next week.
In reading this response, please keep in mind that it comes from one party in a trial.
I am the alumni treasurer of the Chi Phi – Rho Chapter and a 1997 graduate of Lafayette College.
I read your posting at Fraternal Squib which discusses the Chi Phi (Rho Chapter) v. Lafayette College court case (https://fraternalsquib.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/chi-phi-v-lafayette-trial-underway/). Thank you for publishing this and helping to keep the public aware of what will surely be a precedent setting case.
The Morning Call newspaper article that you reference is riddled with inaccuracies.
I thought you might like some more information on the dispute and some detailed explanation. Our website is at http://www.ChiPhiRho.org and the Litigation Updates page (http://www.chiphirho.org/updates/litigation.nex) has a series of articles that outlines our position. Chapters 12 and 13 specifically go into detail about the trial itself.
I’d like to clarify some points:
1) In paragraph one of your article you wrote that the centerpiece of the case is a “100-year-old fraternity with the name ‘Valamont’.” Vallamont is not the fraternity. It’s the fraternity house, a physical structure that we built in 1909. The fraternity is the organization, the Chi Phi – Rho Chapter, which existed continuously since 1874. This is not an insignificant point.
2) In paragraph two, you stated that the chapter closed. The chapter was not closed in 2005, the house was closed. The chapter remained active. If, heaven forbid, the art appreciation club’s office (on campus) burned to the ground, would that make the art appreciation club closed? Certainly not, they just wouldn’t have a place to call home until such time that it is rebuilt, the club would still be active.
- Of note: The chapter decided to close the house, not the school. We closed it after a single keg was found in the house, against college and our policy. The undergraduate members became alumni members. The fraternity itself remained active with our active 800+ living alumni.
- We allowed Vallamont to be used for a fixed period of time, 5 years, at the end of which time the College agreed, by contract to return the premises to the Rho Chapter. The case is about return of the Chapter house. This is a contract case, not a joust about College policy.
3) In paragraph two, you stated that we were denied when we applied to the board. We were not denied, the Board deferred / took no action. The 2006 agreement required them to act at the time of application submission, which they did not. The contract with the College contains no reference to College multi-year studies and provides them no ability to suspend their obligation to return Vallamont. It is that simple.
4) The College admitted on the stand, through the testimony of its VP of Student Affairs, James Krivoski, that students at Lafayette have the same first amendment right of association as any other citizen of the US and are free to join any group they want, so long as it is not a fraternity. How they rationalize this position is a positive mystery to all.
1) What is chartered as a fraternity is an unincorporated association which, by law, has no authority to own property, contract, or bring law suits. As a legal necessity and convenience to the unincorporated Rho Chapter of Chi Phi (made up of undergraduate and alumni members), a “house corporation” is incorporated to own property, enter contracts and bring law suits to enforce the contracts it enters as the legal representative of the unincorporated Chapter association. In our case, the house corporation in 1909 was the “Rho Chapter Association” with which Lafayette granted the Rho Chapter a building site and the perpetual right to use the site as a fraternity, so long as the fraternity did not become “inactive or extinct.” If it did become “inactive” Lafayette was granted a temporary right to use the building “until such time as the fraternity is revived.” It is the House Corporation, acting on behalf of the unincorporated Rho Chapter which owns the house. The College has admitted we own the house. They just refuse to let us use it claiming we are “inactive.”
2) The College claims that we are inactive despite the fact that the National Chi Phi passed special resolutions at its Annual Congress expressly recognizing the Rho Chapter of Chi Phi as an active Chapter with continuing authority to recruit new members. Lafayette says that is irrelevant since the College is the only authority which can approve recruitment of new members and the Rho Chapter cannot so recruit regardless of what its national organization has authorized it to do. They also ignore that this year the Rho Chapter of Chi Phi was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at the 2012 Annual Congress of all active Chi Phi chapters. Rho is an active chapter and it is not the College that makes that determination.
3) Even if we were not an active Chapter and were in need of “revival,” which we are not, we are “revived” by anyone’s view of the evidence before the court, since we have selected and initiated new members who now seek to move into the building known as Vallamont. We introduced into evidence an opinion letter from the College’s own law firm that concluded that the College would have to “immediately” give possession of the house back to the Chapter once it is revived. We are revived since we have new members initiated with the full participation and support of our National Chi Phi. The College says that action is “void” since they did not authorize it. This conclusion, despite the fact that the President of the College in his testimony admitted that Greek organizations are independent of the College and operate pursuant to their own rules.
We remained truly puzzled about how an institution of higher learning refuses to learn.
We would appreciate you including these clarifications and better stating our position in your posting. If your readers have specific questions for us, they can email our Alumni Board President here: http://www.chiphirho.org/emailchiphirho/?T=Craig-Kudcey We welcome all feedback.
On behalf of the Rho Chapter of Chi Phi