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OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Lease agreement controversy continues, Greek fraternities seek legal counsel

Last Friday, May 6, a letter was sent to Wofford’s Board of Trustees concerning the controversial Greek Village lease agreements. The letter was written by Nelson Mullins attorney and alumnus Mathew Abee ‘10, and was signed by a lawyer representing Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and an alumnus of Sigma Nu fraternity. It formally addressed the concerns that students have been voicing over the past month and prompted a response from President Samhat.

Abee served as Student Body President and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He has been involved in fundraising for the new row since the beginning in January of 2015.

The letter cites many grievances, particularly that administration failed to provide copies of lease agreements to the advisers of Greek organizations prior to April 18, 2016. The letter states that despite requests beginning nearly six months ago, advisers did not receive any information regarding the leases until they were presented to the student body less than a week before the planed move-in date of Monday, April 25, 2016.

In order to access their houses for the upcoming April 29 weekend  – the last weekend before quiet hours began – fraternity and sorority presidents had to sign the presented version of the lease. Each Greek president met individually with Dean Bigger to sign the lease. After every organization refused to sign, the college allowed for organizations to sign temporary leases.

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Moreover, the letter claims that the 2016 lease agreements are only one example of the administration’s “unilateral action” regarding the Greek Village project. Other examples, according to the letter, include the administration’s disregard for letters sent by all four of the college’s sororities’ National Presidents asking that sorority houses not be built due to liability and other concerns.

The letter also points to a number of differences between the 2016 leases and the 2014 leases, including changes in insurance limits, insurance exclusions, subrogation rights, rent increases, temporary closure, right to cure provisions and substantial changes to rules and regulations.

Additionally, the letter calls the college’s requirement that all sorority and fraternity presidents sign the lease themselves, rather than having their national housing corporations sign, a “glaring issue.”

“By signing the lease on behalf of an unincorporated association [the college chapter over which each president presides], the student president is exposing himself or herself to a civil liability, along with each member of the local chapter.”

Most national Greek organizations have nonprofit corporations designed to cover liability.

Dean of Student sand Vice President of Student Affairs Roberta Bigger in, a statement issued on April 26 in response to the lease petition, maintained that the leases are “similar to ones from the past that fraternity presidents have signed.”

However, Abee disagrees.

“These leases are different. That’s a fact,” he told Old Gold and Black.

In addition to pointing out seven “main” differences, the letter directly addresses Bigger’s argument that the college has traditionally had sorority and fraternity presidents sign leases.

“In today’s litigious environment, that response simply does not hold water,” says the letter, adding, “the administration certainly did not appear to be concerned with traditional practice when it unilaterally moved Rush to the spring.”

After the letter surfaced online on Tuesday, May 9, Wofford College President Nayef Samhat issued a statement to the Wofford community apologizing for the “difficult and emotional” lease controversy.

“We take full responsibility for the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. We should have started the discussions about the leases earlier this year to give the fraternity and sorority presidents, their advisers and their national offices adequate time to review and discuss the draft.”

Samhat says that as of now, the terms of the lease prohibiting chapters from flying flags and using Greek letters will “certainly” be overturned.

However, many more concerns regarding personal liability are still at issue. Now, the administration is reviewing other terms of the lease, including insurance requirements.

 

 

Confused? Here is an up-to-date timeline of events:

4/18/16: The official leases are released to students [available here].

4/25/16: Petition against lease terms surfaces [OGB coverage here, petition here].

4/26/16: Dean Bigger responds to the petition [available here].

5/06/16: The letter from concerned alumni is sent to Wofford.

5/08/16: Total Frat Move covers lease controversy [available here].

5/09/16: The letter from concerned alumni is released to public.

5/09/16: President Samhat issues response [available here].

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