Chi Phi chapter locked out of house

Alexandra Finkel

McCormick senior Donnie Redding had less than a month to move out.

Redding and the five other students living in his fraternity, Chi Phi, were required to vacate the house before the locks were changed on Jan. 1.

“It was a really tough and an unfortunate situation we fell into,” Redding said. “Luckily, I was able to find an apartment to move into within a few weeks of looking.”

According to Chi Phi president Andrew Lang, the fraternity failed to install a $50,000 fire sprinkler system, breaking Evanston fire code laws issued in 2004 that allowed city residents four years to comply.

“We’ve known about the new code for a while now, but we always felt we could deal with this later,” the McCormick junior said. “Once we figured out it was going to be an issue, we started looking for other options.”

One option the house considered was to “opt-in” with the university, which would allow the school to take control of the house while paying for the facilities and essentially the new sprinkler system, Lang said.

With 12 total members, many of whom chose to live elsewhere, Chi Phi would have been unable to meet a housing quota of 11 occupants. So when the “opt-in” option fell through during the summer, fraternity members looked for other ways to raise the money.

“Last quarter we started fundraising and writing to alumni, but we couldn’t come up with that kind of cash,” he said.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, which declined to comment for this story, informed the members of the pending eviction in early December.

According to Evanston Fire Department Division Chief Tom Janetske, the city did not officially evict the students from the house.

“We have not yet required anyone to vacate the premises,” Janetske said. “If it’s not currently occupied then we will probably flag the property until it complies with the current codes.”

Without a house, the members were forced to hold rush activities in Kemper Hall last week, although the fraternity failed to attract any new pledges.

“It’s a tough sell now that we are the only frat without a house,” Lang said.

The fraternity is currently looking into housing options for next year, including the possibility of an off-campus house.

Michael Azarian, director of the fraternity’s national chapter, said he was made aware of the situation six months ago.

“We are just starting to deal with it now and we’re going to have to wait and see what happens,” he said. “We will do one of two things: Either a chapter revitalization where we will provide chapter visitations, or we will return to campus at a later time with a new group of men.”

Although the conversation has come up, the majority of members are not considering disbanding, Weinberg sophomore Tom Patrowsky said.

“People say, ‘Well, we can be friends for free and not pay money to nationals,’ but I don’t think we have any intention of giving up on this,” he said. “A frat is much more than just a house.”

Former Chi Phi member Anthony Valente said he chose to deactivate over Winter Break primarily because of the eviction.

“If you don’t have a place where everyone goes to have dinner and party, then it’s not worth it. It’s just such a focal point of a fraternity,” said the Weinberg sophomore, who currently lives at 1835 Hinman. “They’re done as a fraternity.”

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