STANFORD (KPIX 5) — Stanford University’s longest continuously operating fraternity has filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming school officials broke its ground lease agreement and that punishment of the fraternity was “absurd and unjust.”
Back in January 2018, the Sigma Chi chapter made national headlines when seven attendees claimed they were drugged at an open house party. The Alpha Omega House Corporation, or AOHC, conducted its own investigation and found no evidence of drugs.
According to the lawsuit, “The AOHC has never been advised by Stanford, the police, the Title IX Office or the International Fraternity, that any responsible party has ever come to the conclusion that any drugs were introduced to student beers on the evening of this event.”
Nonetheless, in May 2018, the International Fraternity revoked the charter of the local Sigma Chi chapter until 2021.
According to the suit, Stanford also suspended the chapter’s charter, based on violations of alcohol rules in April 2014, Spring 2016, and the party of January 2018.
After the suspension, the Sigma Chi house, a 13,000 square foot property that houses 43 students, was renamed as ‘550 Lasuen’, and currently houses non-fraternity students. AOHC owns the building, but leases the land from Stanford.
However, since the property is not housing fraternity members, then AOHC is in violation of the lease. Stanford filed an “unlawful detainer” lawsuit June 20.
Stanford said in a statement to KPIX:
“As discussed in Stanford’s complaint…the lease has terminated because AOHC is in violation of the lease’s requirement that the property only be used by AOHC to house active members of the alpha omega chapter. Because the Alpha Omega Chapter’s charter has been suspended by the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and the chapter is no longer recognized by Stanford due to disciplinary measures imposed by Stanford, the chapter no longer has any active members and, therefore, the lease’s requirements are not being met. Accordingly, the lease has terminated.”
Bob Ottilie, chairman of the Alpha Omega House Corporation, said a letter sent to AOHC by Stanford, informing them they had to vacate the premises after 128 years of operation on campus, was a “sucker punch”. Ottilie says the current five-year lease expires in 2024, and with multiple documents to support the duration of the lease.
“And yet in February we’re told that our expires in August 31, which would suggest a one-year lease. And the university has never backed off of that. So that tells you right there one of two things, either the university intentionally tried to mislead us to get this $9 million dollar house. Or the university never looked at its own lease before it told us to get out,” said Ottilie.
As the only privately operated residential building, AOHC has set forth strict bans on alcohol, parties, and drugs in the building.
“We believe the purpose of attempting to take away ownership of the house away from us, is to eliminate Stanford’s harshest critic, on the rather lackadaisical approach they take to student safety,” said Ottilie. “In every instance, our policies are stricter and more protective of students than the university’s policies.”
“Stanford will defend itself against the claims of the Alpha Omega Housing Corporation (AOHC), and will file its response to the complaint – which was served to the university on July 2 – within 30 days,” the Stanford statement read.
Ottilie says he is confident the AOHS will prevail in the lawsuit, and hopes that “cooler heads will prevail” and Sigma Chi will be allowed to return to campus.
“If we’re given that time to educate those individuals, whether it’s trustees or higher level administrators, of the unique contributions our group makes to the community now, and the larger contribution we’ve made over the last century, that people are going to realize, we’re really good for Stanford,” said Ottilie.