SigEp house becomes Champlain dorm
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 21:08
Former UVM fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) lost its charter last year, but what happened this summer may have hit even closer to home.
Actually, a whole lot closer.
The SigEp house at 371 Main St. will undergo interior renovations before becoming home to approximately 30 Champlain College students this fall, according to the Burlington Free Press.
SigEp lost its charter last December when a controversial survey question distributed among fraternity brothers went public, sparking national media attention and local protests.
Since the University’s decision to de-recognize SigEp, the brothers who were living at the house were forced to move out, and the national organization decided what to do next.
Champlain acquired the house in June, after Burlington’s Development Review Board approved the college’s request to change the property from a fraternity house to a dormitory for five years.
Efforts to transform the 8,200-square-foot house into a student dorm have resulted in a $300,000 interior makeover, a University Business article stated.
But the house isn’t exactly changing hands. SigEp has owned 371 Main St. since 1956, and the fraternity continues to be the sole proprietor of the house throughout its leasing agreement with Champlain.
Executive director of SigEp Brian Warren said in a phone conversation with the Cynic that the terms and conditions of the agreement allowed room for the fraternity to eventually re-apply for its charter.
“Typically, four years is the length of time that a chapter will remain dormant,” Warren said. “It is our intention that we can explore various conversations [with UVM] about re-affiliation after that time.”
Warren said that at no time during SigEp’s communication with the University back in December did administrators express interest in taking over the house.
Considering the house was already designed for fraternity use, some people in the UVM community had even hoped that the house would go to one of the four fraternities on campus that do not have facilities, such as Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi).
AEPi President Zach Lasky said that he and his fraternity brothers were considering leasing the house from SigEp, but that they never acted on it.
“Of course we wish we could have kept the house in UVM Greek life,” he said. “I feel that UVM and Burlington are now shying away from fraternity houses because there’s more risk involved.”
Lasky said he was surprised that UVM had not contacted SigEp’s national organization to keep the house a part of the University’s real estate holdings.
The response from UVM’s Campus Planning Services indicated that UVM’s disinterest in taking over the house was not due to the possible risk involved, but rather the result of ongoing research about campus planning needs.
The University is currently working with Biddison Hier, Ltd., a resource planning and consulting firm based out of Washington, D.C., to conduct a long-term analysis on student and faculty housing.
Lisa McNaney, who works in campus planning services, said that UVM was still in the midst of perfecting its campus master plan.
“While we’ve added 300 beds already with the Redstone Lofts, we’re still figuring out what we need to do,” she said.
Champlain College has a master plan of its own and has already entered the next phase of construction.
According to Associate Vice President of Campus Planning Michael George, Champlain College has implemented a plan to house up to 90 percent of its 2,000 undergraduate students — making 371 Main St. an important, albeit temporary, addition.
In the meantime, the national SigEp organization is keeping watch over its house as Champlain completes renovations.
Patrick T. Murphy, managing director of SigEp National Housing, said he had been in Burlington Aug. 20 and 21 to review the alterations.
“We share the alumni’s excitement about the restored facility as we look to provide a better living and learning environment for our future SigEp chapter at the University of Vermont,” he said.