Use of Chi Phi house upheld in appeals court

A state appeals court upheld a decision last Wednesday, February 12, that Lafayette could use Vallamont, the house held by the Rho chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity at Lafayette, as student housing. The decision, made by a Northampton County court in 2012, cited an agreement made between the college and the fraternity in 1909.

The ruling in 2012, given by Northampton County Judge Emil Giordiano, said that Chi Phi had given the college “extremely, even limitless, broad” authority to take over the house if unoccupied, according a report by The Express-Times.

The decision in the appellate court, given by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge John Musmanno, reaffirmed the 2012 decision, saying Chi Phi incorrectly interpreted the agreement.

“Rho Chapter contends that the trial court incorrectly determined that the term ‘inactive’ in the 1909 agreement was ambiguous, and thereafter improperly considered evidence that came into existence one hundred years after the contract was executed,” the Wednesday ruling said.

According to The Morning Call, when the house was opened in 1909, the college and the fraternity entered an agreement that the fraternity could occupy the house if they were active on the campus; if not, the college could use it. In 2005, when the fraternity was kicked off campus for five years for violating alcohol policy, the college possessed the house for their own purposes.

The fraternity petitioned to come back to campus in 2011, but the college turned down the application, saying that they did not want fraternities to return to campus in the midst of the study by the Implementation and Assessment Group on Greek Life, according to The Express-Times. The study was supposed to assert the benefits and disadvantages of Greek Life on campus.