The Lambda Chi Alpha house on Sunset Avenue after it was closed in January 2017. Photo by Adam Cvik.
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The Lambda Chi Alpha house remains vacant as Butler University communicates with the local alumni association on future plans.
Lambda’s national board of directors suspended the Butler chapter in January 2017. The local Lambda Chi Alpha Alpha-Alpha Zeta house corporation and alumni association own and maintain the empty house on Sunset Avenue.
Bruce Arick, vice president of finance for Butler, has been part of the planning. Butler has communicated with the alumni association for about 12 to 18 months, but no decisions or agreements have been made.
“We have picked up the conversation to see where it goes,” Arick said.
The conversation started after Butler’s Lambda chapter considered a renovation to their house before they were suspended. The potential renovation would cost a large amount of money for the chapter. Arick said Butler saw this as an opportunity to possibly purchase the Lambda house and move their chapter to a new house on Hampton Drive. Lambda is an outlier on Sunset Avenue, as all other Greek houses reside on Hampton.
“It just makes sense to at least have the conversation and work something out,” Arick said.
If the Lambda alumni association were to agree to the purchase, the university would buy their property and make further arrangements to move the Lambda house toward Hampton if Lambda were to return. Alternatively, Lambda can choose to stay in its current location and not sell the property to Butler.
“We’re really buying it at a long-term master planning,” Arick said. “Do we have immediate plans of what we would do for the house or property? No. The property is an opportunity to do something in the future.”
Butler already owns most of the corner on Sunset Ave: the HRC, Hinkle Fieldhouse and the parking garage. Arick said it would be an opportunity for the university to continue campus improvements, but he does not know what the property would become.
The university’s purchase could happen prior to the Lambda chapter returning to campus, which would not be possible until spring 2021.
“Even if we did work out an arrangement with them, they would still be subject to the agreement with the university when they can come back on campus,” Arick said. “The idea of them moving down there wouldn’t come into view until they’re approved to come back on campus.”
Adam Bantz, president of the Interfraternity Council, has not received updates regarding the Lambda house. Bantz said he is unaware of any plans for Butler to purchase the Lambda house.
“I do not believe there would be too big of an impact on the fraternity community,” Bantz said in an email. “The real impact would be intangible – the loss of a structure that contains so much history and facilitated the making of so many memories for generations of Lambda Chi Alphas.”
Bantz said the current role of the IFC during the conversations is to support the active fraternities on campus.
“That being said, we are striving to foster an environment where situations like this can be avoided in the future,” he said.
Senior Alex Weiss was in Lambda’s 2015 class. He was the historian, the member in charge of history and tradition, for the chapter until it closed last January. Weiss was on campus during recruitment, but left to study abroad before the chapter closed. He heard about the suspension, but was already moved out of the Lambda house.
“I haven’t heard much since the time that we were kicked off,” Weiss said.
The last time he heard about relationships with their national headquarters was from Jerry Ours, the secretary of the Alumni Association. Ours explained the tension between Butler’s Lambda chapter and their headquarters in a Facebook post to the chapter.
Weiss said they were planning on renovating portions of the house a few years ago. Lambda’s house is the first fraternity house built on campus. The house was built in 1928 — the same year as Hinkle Fieldhouse. Weiss said Butler does not recognize the history of Lambda’s house on campus.
“It’s disappointing that Lambda is overlooked in that way because it doesn’t receive the same accolades that Hinkle does,” Weiss said. “I think everyone in Lambda knew Butler wanted the property our house was on.”
One considered option is for the new Lambda house to be built on the vacant Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house located on the corner of Beta Lane and Hampton Drive.
“Presumably they would probably consider building a new house on the TKE property site,” Arick said. “Anybody who takes over that property would have to evaluate the merits of whether or not you renovate the house or tear down and start all over.”
The TKE property is a possible future option for the Lambda chapter, but everything depends on Lambda’s decision with the purchase. Since Butler began the conversation with Lambda first, the Lambda chapter would have first choice of the vacant TKE property.
“We don’t have any control over [Lambda],” Arick said. “It would be a decision on their part.”
Arick said Butler is communicating with the new Beta Theta Pi fraternity that arrived on campus this fall and the previously suspended Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on their future housing plans. There are no current plans of moving another Greek house into Lambda’s vacant home if the purchase and agreement is completed.
“Certainly having the Lambda Chis return would be a good thing,” Arick said. “I think having them return to a new house could be quite attractive to students in the future.”
Weiss said the destruction of Lambda’s house would be a loss of history and memories for previous chapter members and alumni.
“For the guys that left, everyone has memories in the house,” Weiss said. “Any person would be disappointed to find out the house they lived in for most of their college life isn’t going to be there, or other people won’t have the same experience.”
If Butler purchases the Lambda house, current students may be here to see construction on Hampton to improve Greek housing in the future.
“It’ll create opportunities for students to participate in Greek organizations at a higher level than what they can right now,” Arick said.
Arick said conversations will continue to happen over the next couple years. Negotiations will continue assuming the Lambda chapter returns to campus spring 2021, which is not officially determined or approved.
If Butler were to purchase and build a new house on Hampton, Lambda’s home would lose more than 80 years of history.
“Everyone looks back on their time in the house with rosey goggles,” Weiss said.