SAE considers future after loss of house

Members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity said the organization’s GW chapter will continue to survive despite the recent loss of its 2034 G St. house.

The fraternity’s recruitment period ended Friday night and the organization offered bids to seven freshmen. Last year, when the fraternity had its house, 11 students initially signed on in the fall, but three men dropped out during the pledging process.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon recruitment chair Andrew Kalt said the fraternity “didn’t know what to expect” in terms of pledge numbers because the “house was such a draw.”

“I’d say the toughest time was these last couple of weeks reorganizing,” Kalt said. “The house was a great asset. We had a great time over there.”

“(But) there’s more to the fraternity than the house … the fraternity will go on,” he added.

He said the organization held recruitment activities at members’ townhouses and apartments last week. Parties will be held at off-campus clubs instead of the house this year, he said.

Established at GW in 1858, Sigma Alpha Epsilon now boasts about 50 members and is unrecognized by GW. The fraternity lost University recognition in 1993, and GW currently has no jurisdiction over the chapter.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon members lived at the house consistently for the past two years following nearly $1 million in renovations mandated by D.C. City inspectors who “condemned” the house in August 2000 because of several safety violations and forced all residents to leave.

The city continued to cite the fraternity house for a myriad of penalties, including repair work violations in May, according to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Housing Regulation Administration. Each violation came with a charge that fraternity members needed to pay off themselves.

The fraternity’s housing corporation – a body of alumni in charge of collecting rent and keeping the house maintained – “gifted” the house to the national fraternity foundation this summer because of low resident numbers and the continuous housing violations and charges, fraternity officials said.

The fraternity foundation officially took ownership of the house earlier this month.

Sean Duncan, a member of the housing corporation and Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s GW chapter adviser, said there “weren’t enough people living (in the house) for the past two years.”

The house can accommodate 20 people, but only 10 members lived in the house last semester, said a former fraternity leader who wished to remain anonymous.

The fraternity also had problems filling the house because of the University’s recently enacted policy requiring all sophomores to live on campus, the student leader said.

The student said paying back a loan the fraternity took out to renovate the house produced an $8,000 per month mortgage.

“That forced us to use a lot of our dues money to subsidize rent,” he said. “It was a really ugly situation.”

Foundation trustees are currently deciding what to do with the property, Ginnochio said, adding that the foundation does not plan on having 2034 G St. operate as a fraternity house any more.

The foundation is considering selling the property or turning it into “anything from residential housing to some sort of office building,” depending on how the property is zoned, Ginnochio said.

The property’s assessed value is $950,050 – the land is valued at $737,700 and the house itself at $212,350, according to the Office of Tax and Revenue. In 2004 the value is set to eclipse the $1 million mark.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon Director of Member Services Christopher Mundy said the foundation will notify GW if it plans to make a sale.

Michael Peller, GW’s managing director for the Marvin Center, who deals with some property negotiations, said the University is “always interested in acquiring property that can help it” but declined to comment specifically on former Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. He said the University made an offer in the past concerning the property.

Ginocchio said he has not spoken with University officials since the foundation took over the house.

Although fraternity officials said they do not know whether the chapter will receive a new house, members said they are looking forward to working with this fall’s pledge class.

“They’re good guys,” Kalt said. “(We’re interested in) quality over quantity.”

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