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Penn State Files Lawsuit to Buy Beta Theta Pi House

by on November 20, 2018 7:09 PM

Penn State has filed a lawsuit seeking the court-ordered sale of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house to the university, according to the Associated Press.

According to the AP, Penn State argues that the 1928 deed transferring the property at 220 N. Burrowes St., which is surrounded by the University Park campus, to the Beta Theta Pi chapter gives the university the right to reacquire it if it is no longer used as a fraternity.

The Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi was permanently banned from Penn State following the death of pledge Timothy Piazza, who sustained fatal injuries during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017. Penn State says the alumni board that owns and operates the house has been issued a rooming house and rental house permit.

Code officials previously issued citations for the house multiple times last year for unauthorized change of use, after the alumni corporation opened it to alumni to stay in for a fee on Penn State football home game weekends.

The chapter rejected an offer from Penn State in August, the AP reported, and the two sides could not come to an agreement after a meeting in September.

Penn State wants the court to appoint an arbitrator who will set the sale price. The fraternity has disputed that the university can enforce the deed terms.

The university's lawsuit isn't the only involving the property. Beta alumnus Don Abbey filed a suit last year against the alumni corporation, claiming he is owed nearly $10 million he loaned for renovations, repairs and operations for the house. He says that per a funding agreement, the money had to be repaid if Alpha Upsilon ceased to be an active chapter of Beta Theta Pi.

Attorneys for the chapter have said in filings that the only significant asset it has is the house, and that if judgment were awarded in Abbey's favor it would essentially give him control of the property. The chapter contends the money was a gift, not a loan, and that it did not sign off on the funding agreement Abbey cites. That case is still heading toward trial.

The move from the university for the Beta house comes almost exactly 10 years after it filed a similar lawsuit to regain control of another fraternity property. In November 2008, Penn State went to court seeking to force the sale of the Phi Delta Theta house, which was at 240 N. Burrowes St., right down the road from Beta Theta Pi, after the fraternity was suspended a year earlier. The 1905 deed for the property stipulated Penn State had the right to buy it back if it ceased to be a fraternity. The university eventually acquired it for $1.75 million in 2010 and demolished it later that year.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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