Samford University has won a 12-year battle for control of a million-dollar property once home to a now-banned fraternity on campus.
The latest development in the saga of the Lambda Chi Alpha house came almost 12 years to the day from when the Baptist university suspended the local chapter of the national fraternity. The original ban was issued Dec. 7, 2011, and the final ruling — a “no-decision” default — from the Alabama Supreme Court came Dec. 4.
Samford already had taken possession of the three-story, nine-bedroom house and converted it to offices.
Now, the state Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the case, ending a legal challenge to the university’s cancellation of a 100-year land lease and capture of the house now sitting on it. The house was built and maintained by a nonprofit corporation related to Lambda Chi Alpha and its predecessormorganization, Theta Alpha Zeta.
The story begins with a hazing incident in 2011 that left a student with two stitches but able to attend classes the next day, according to James Hart, a Birmingham attorney and a trustee of the Theta Alpha Zeta House Corp.
Soon after, the university suspended the chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha and issued a “mediation agreement” that declared the House Corp. must “cancel” the 100-year lease begun in 1968 and that Samford would take ownership of the structures built on the property. That same “mediation agreement” said officers of the House Corp. would be notified in writing of the terms of the agreement and given seven days to approve. The agreement would be deemed approved if none of the trustees objected within that time.
Hart claims the trustees never were sent the agreement and all would have objected if given the opportunity.
According to an earlier published report by Al.com: “Hart alleges that Samford later called suspended fraternity members back for a meeting to vote Hart and other officers out as members of Lambda Chi Alpha and replace them as officers of the House Corp. with new board members. Hart said that it was invalid for a suspended fraternity to conduct such a vote and that proper notification of members and officers did not take place.”
This week, after the state Supreme Court declined to intervene, Hart said: “At the end of the day, Samford encouraged troubled youngsters to expel three honorable alumni, each a CEO of Alabama enterprises having served on House Corp. management for decades. No one would have ever allowed the kids to run the house, until it suited Samford to do so. For four decades the House Corp. and its alumni members contributed to the education of Samford men, yet owned property Samford had long coveted. Using its hazing students to take what it wanted and shift their punishment to alumni became the takeover plan.”
Samford does not routinely comment on controversial news and in the past has ignored requests for comment from BNG and other media outlets. The university has posted no public comment on this issue either.
Samford, how long will you remain silent? | Opinion by Mark Wingfield