The University lost its lawsuit against the Alpha Omega Housing Corporation (AOHC), a group of Sigma Chi alumni that lease the property at 550 Lasuen Street. Stanford and AOHC have reached an agreement to use the property for University housing through the end of the lease term in August 2023.
Stanford’s Sigma Chi chapter was suspended in May 2018 after at least five members of Pi Beta Phi and two members of the men’s rowing team reported that they may have been drugged by a non-Stanford student visiting members of Stanford’s men’s rowing team. Following months of dispute in 2019 over the property that once housed the fraternity, dual lawsuits were filed by both Stanford and AOHC, with the latter suing Stanford for early and unlawful termination of the lease in June 2019 and the former responding with unlawful detainer action (a way to evict tenants who stay after a lease is terminated) that has now been resolved in AOHC’s favor.
While the University was ordered to pay attorney’s fees and costs, “an agreement was reached whereby the University has not paid any money,” AOHC Chair Bob Ottilie ’77 explained. “That arrangement gives us a chance to move on as community partners going forward, which is what we’ve been since 1891.”
Ottillie said the group’s objective was “to reach a global resolution so that neither side would have to spend any more money on attorneys fees.”
Under the new ResX initiative, 550 Lausen will be a co-ed house for upperclass students in Neighborhood D, and Sigma Chi’s suspension will end on June 6. Ottilie said the chapter has initiated the reinstatement process. Garrett Delgado ’12, a former member of Stanford’s Sigma Chi chapter, formed an alumni group of around twenty former members of the chapter who are currently focused on advocating and raising capital for the chapter’s reinstatement.
“We are currently … waiting for the University to tell us how they can best use our assistance, and we will do our very best to either assist them ourselves, or assist in finding the best people,” Delgado said.
While the University did not comment on an anticipated timeline for the reinstatement process, Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris wrote that “the university has met with Sigma Chi International to discuss preliminary steps for the Stanford chapter’s return to campus.”
As Sigma Chi International and the University move forward with the reinstatement process, Ottilie expressed that they hope the Stanford chapter will be once again housed at 550 Lasuen.
AOHC is currently working on efforts to designate the house as a historical landmark because of the chapter’s involvement with the civil rights movement.
In 1965, the Stanford Sigma Chi chapter informed the national executive committee that they intended to rush on a nondiscriminatory basis. Previously, only white people had been allowed to join the chapter, as enforced by the nation executive committee. The chapter disaffiliated from the national organization, with the support of the University, to become an independent fraternity house until the national policies were revised in 1971 to eliminate discriminatory policies.
Ottilie said the designation will “be a point of pride for the University community,” as well as a way to commemorate the history of the chapter.
Ottilie said AOHC has limited the rental agreement with the University to two years because they anticipate that by the fall of 2023 “we will have a Sigma Chi chapter again,” that he hopes will be housed at 550 Lausen.
Echoing Ottillie, Delgado said he hopes “that Alpha Omegas will live in the house at some point” but wants the re-housing process to be responsible and effective.
Addressing the circumstances that led to the suspension of Sigma Chi in 2018, Delgado said “we’re going to be a brand new group, with a brand new leadership team, with a brand new vision for how Alpha Omega instates itself on campus.” The new leadership and an “open, strong, transparent relationship with the University is going to resolve and avoid any issues that we may have had in the past,” he said.
Sigma Chi alumni acknowledged the current campus climate in interviews with The Daily, and said the fraternity is dedicated to supporting diversity, referencing a leadership training program that they said distinguishes them from other fraternities and social organizations on campus, and Sigma Chi’s history with the civil rights movement.
“I felt that Alpha Omega was a very inclusive class during my three years there, and I certainly hope that it continues to be so,” Delgado said in response to concerns about the lack of diversity in Greek life, both racially and socioeconomically.
While Delgado said Sigma Chi International was responsible for developing the specific material in training, he said the leadership programs emphasized values of “character, educational ability, having ambition, being congenial, good morals, having a high sense of honor and personal responsibility.”