The original proposal for a redesigned Beta Lane, which is currently a road between Alpha Chi Omega (right) and the abandoned TKE house (right). Photos obtained by the Collegian.
MADELEINE LUCCHETTI | OPINION EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Universities are businesses. They provide a product: a college experience, which is meticulously marketed as polished and pricelessly valuable.
Private universities, like Butler, take this to the next level. The campus is stunning, the professors are invested, and the administration seems to want nothing but the best for each student — whose individual net worth chalks up to about a quarter-million dollars.
To be rewarded with one of these pricey diplomas, each student should expect to follow what are considered the Butler Commandments: Pay thy bills, overbook thyself, behave thyself.
“Behavior,” however, is a loose term. Supposedly, all Butler students are held to the same standard — but if you’re involved in Greek Life, be prepared to tighten up more than the average Dawg. If you’re Greek, and sipped a beer before your 21st, it makes Butler look bad. Considering image is everything, such indecency gives Butler an excuse to remove Greek organizations from campus, under the guise of morality and standards.
The national attitude toward Greek life has soured, and though Butler Greek culture is overwhelmingly positive, fraternities and sororities still pose a risk to Butler’s wholesome image. Butler maintains itself, as the Puritan John Winthrop might say, as “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.”
Heretical Lambda Chi Alpha learned this the hard way.
In January 2017, days after Bid Day, Lambda was removed from the Butler Greek life lineup. The Butler administration sent notice of six infractions, stretching over the previous fall semester, to LXA headquarters. Their house was vacant within weeks. Residents were shoved into campus armpits like University Terrace or CTS.
The suspension was justified by this litany of allegations, mostly orbiting around the issue of underage drinking. Following a thorough investigation, several of these claims were dropped.
Considering other Butler fraternities have recently survived more serious infractions, it seemed conveniently easy for the school to bid Lambda adieu, which had spent one hundred years as an uninterrupted presence on campus.
Around two years ago, prior to Lambda Chi’s exit from campus, Butler approached Lambda Chi Alpha with a proposition: they’d buy out Lambda, and take possession of their current land — which would move Lambda closer to Greek Row. But an agreement was never reached.
Now, in 2019, as the school continues to swell, Butler scrambles to find space. Their fight for the Lambda property is far from over.
In early January, I came across a PowerPoint packet ominously titled “Vacating Beta Lane.” Within the Butler-formatted pages are images of the former TKE property as it stands now, bordering Beta Lane, Alpha Chi Omega adjacent. Flip to page 4, and you’ll see mock-ups of a new Lambda house sitting on the TKE property. Beta Lane is gone, replaced by a strip of grassy lawn.
The packet contains a “Proposed Site Plan,” a blueprint/schematic dated Dec. 12 of last year, drawn up by Cripe Solutions. An illustrated 3-D image follows, and is attributed to Rowland Design.
It’s stunning. Among the new features are a stone porch, wide lawn, peaked windows and dark roofing similar to the old Lambda property.
We’re talking about the Lambda that was abhorred for throwing a Christmas party, the Lambda that was evicted within weeks as a cautionary symbol against the dangers of bad behavior. The Lambda that Student Affairs dismissed as unsalvageable.
Only two of four suspensionary years have passed. Why, now, is Butler dangling this expensive, controversial carrot?
Because the expulsion was never about behavior. It was monetarily motivated, just like anything else with which Butler involves itself. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
We’ll never get Danko to admit it, but Butler needs Greek Life. In the short-term, it sways the decisions of prospective students, gives members leadership and service opportunities, connects Butler chapters with other those of countless other universities, and, finally, graduates wealthier alumni. Wealthy alumni are the lifeblood of Giving Tuesday and other major fundraisers. In the long-term, when Lambda and Butler are buddy-buddy, the school would nab valuable real estate, and could reignite donor engagement from past Lambda graduates: a historically large pool.
Butler’s proactiveness indicates their true motive. It’s clear that Butler is highly interested in having Lambda, and only Lambda, built on the former TKE lot.
Consider the strange state of Beta Theta Pi. The new fraternity colonized on Butler’s campus in 2017. Beta is currently homeless, and has no brick-and-mortar presence on campus. The members meet in the Reilly Room or other designated areas for meetings and events. This puts them at a clear disadvantage in terms of recruitment numbers and overall campus presence. So why wouldn’t Beta have priority bidding on the first vacant lot?
Though Beta is a well-behaved and law-abiding organization already on campus, they have no bartering chip. They don’t own vacant land. Nothing tempts Butler more than a new construction site, and Beta can’t offer that. Whereas Lambda has a gold mine sitting across from Scotty’s and the HRC.
Beta has no alumni network, while Lambda has historical roots. Their website states that “more than 1,300 men have worn the Lambda Chi Alpha badge at Butler, and our alumni base includes more than 700 living alumni.” Some of the stars include Bill Farkas, the current Lambda Chi Alpha CEO, along with Emmy winner William C. Evans. There’s also Stephen A. Briganti, CEO of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation, and Thom Burleson, a former distance runner who qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1976 and 1980.
For years, Butler’s been trying to persuade neighboring Hampton Drive houses to get onboard with construction on the TKE plot. As evidenced by the mock-ups within the packet, this would mean removing Beta Lane as a whole, eliminating valuable parking and redirecting traffic patterns.
Alpha Chi Omega sits adjacent to the TKE property. Any matters of their building and property fall under the judgement of their housing corporation, whose Vice President, Kathy Andry, is entirely uninterested in having Butler infringe upon the borders of Alpha Chi’s tight space. She, too, finds Butler’s lack of transparency off-putting.
“Every so often, these guys show up from the university. They come in and they’re very nice, but can’t answer a single question. They try to gloss the details over,” Andry said.
Namely, “these guys” are Bruce Arick, Butler’s vice president for finance and administration, and Doug Morris, associate vice president of facilities. When Andry pressed the two Butler representatives for a clear timeline, she said they couldn’t provide one.
She noted that the Alpha Chi housing corporation is frequently approached by Butler officials, though her board has remained adamant that such construction plans contradict the interests of Greek Row as a whole.
“The Alpha Chi Omega Butler University House Corporation is not in favor of abandoning that lane for several logical reasons,” Andry said.
Her main concern is also a perennial Butler issue: the lack of parking. Women living in Alpha Chi and neighboring Greek Row houses regularly use the 21 parking spots lining Beta Lane, and some in the TKE lot.
“We don’t want them to do it,” she said. “If we give Butler an inch, they’ll take a mile. And we need every inch of that parking.”
Andry noticed the growing desperation of the visiting Butler officials, who have been holding periodic meetings with her board.
“They’re obviously between a rock and a hard spot,” Andry said. “They’re running back and forth with their tail between their legs.”
Andry added that during the most recent meeting, it was recommended Alpha Chi cooperate with the building plans, as “‘it might be a nice gesture to the university.’”
She feels especially frustrated because these plans are being pushed purely out of concern for university initiatives.
“I don’t feel that the Greeks get the support and the respect they deserve,” Andry said. “If the Lambdas want to take TKE down and redesign it, fine. I’m certainly not opposed to another sorority or fraternity being right there.”
Butler’s reshuffling the campus cards — and cheating. They pulled Lambda from the discard pile and can’t figure out why the other players are calling bluff.
Essentially, this mess of a proposition only works if Lambda agrees to reinstate itself on campus. After being kicked off campus in an turf war thinly disguised as a moralistic throwdown, the organization may have to warm to the idea. Meanwhile, Butler will continue to woo Lambda and nag the neighbors, continuing the cycle of hush-hush money politics and keeping the rumor mill running.
Squeaky-clean behavior is expected of the students, but not of our administration.