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UMass Delta Upsilon fraternity dissolved, house auctioned

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>This building at 778 North Pleasant St. in Amherst was formerly occupied by the Delta Upsilon fraternity which has been dissolved at the University of Massachusetts. The house, now occupied by members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, is scheduled to be auctioned Thursday.

    SARAH CROSBY
    This building at 778 North Pleasant St. in Amherst was formerly occupied by the Delta Upsilon fraternity which has been dissolved at the University of Massachusetts. The house, now occupied by members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, is scheduled to be auctioned Thursday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>This building at 778 North Pleasant St. in Amherst was formerly occupied by the Delta Upsilon fraternity which has been dissolved at the University of Massachusetts. The house, now occupied by members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, is scheduled to be auctioned Thursday.
  • Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

The off-campus fraternity’s downward spiral was marked by mounting financial troubles and an April 2011 incident in which a 20-year-old UMass student was critically injured when he fell from the fraternity’s pitched roof at 778 North Pleasant St.

The building goes on the auction block today, though it was quickly inhabited by another fraternity after the former tenants exited.

“As far as we’re concerned, they don’t exist as an organization,” UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said of Delta Upsilon. “It is as severe a sanction as you can get, the ultimate sanction.”

Authorities said student Nathaniel “Ned” Grant of Richmond had been drinking alcohol at the time he fell from the roof. He was in a coma immediately following the accident but has since made a recovery and resumed his studies, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office, which investigated the incident along with Amherst police. The DA’s office on Wednesday said it could not provide any more specifics on the case.

University officials said they planned to evaluate what happened to determine whether any students or the fraternity violated the school’s code of conduct, though the university this week would not confirm whether any disciplinary actions had been taken against individual students. Neither Grant nor members of the former Delta Upsilon fraternity could be reached for comment.

Meantime, the fraternity house is expected to change hands today in a foreclosure proceeding initiated by Scott F. Garrett of Fairfield, Conn., who holds two mortgages on the property, including a $538,000 loan that was in default.

The property had been owned since the 1980s by University of Massachusetts Alumni of Delta Upsilon Inc., which fell behind by tens of thousands of dollars on its mortgage payments, records show. Garrett said he plans to acquire the property at today’s foreclosure auction, unless he is outbid, and enter into long-term lease agreements with members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity who moved into the house recently.

Past troubles

The student fall in 2011 was the not the first time the Delta Upsilon fraternity had faced scrutiny by authorities.

In 2001, the fraternity burned down, though no one was seriously injured. Twenty-three students lost most of their belongings in the blaze, which was caused by an unattended candle. The state fire marshal brought charges against the fraternity because its smoke detectors had been covered up with plastic, delaying the fire’s discovery. The incident prompted a discussion about fire safety on the UMass campus and led to the discovery of fire code violations at other fraternity houses. The fraternity, along with Phi Mu Delta, ultimately settled charges of disabling fire alarms.

The alumni group that owned the property built a new house in 2003, funded by insurance money and alumni donations, according to its members at the time.

There are currently 20 fraternities and 15 sororities recognized by UMass, and a dozen have chapter houses, such as the one recently vacated by Delta Upsilon.

In addition to the fire, police had been to the property on other occasions in the past, including in 2008 when they responded to a report of a fight between fraternity members and a passer-by, and in 2010, when police responded to a report of people throwing objects at passing cars.

After the student fell from the roof, the fraternity caught the attention of the Delta Upsilon International Fraternity in Indianapolis. The umbrella organization placed the chapter at UMass on temporary suspension pending a disciplinary hearing. In May it severed its connection to the fraternity at UMass, according to university officials, which prompted the dean of students to follow suit in the fall.

“Since they had no support from the national (organization) and based on our review of the record, we decided to no longer recognize them as a student organization,” Blaguszewski said.

Attempts to reach leaders of the fraternal organization in Indiana were unsuccessful this week.

Michael Wiseman, director of the UMass Office of Fraternities and Sororities, said most schools would not recognize and support an organization that is not recognized by its national organization.

Garrett, who anticipates taking ownership of the property after today’s foreclosure auction, said he has worked with the Office of Fraternities and Sororities to ensure better oversight of the fraternity that now inhabits the building. He also said he was not aware of the student’s fall from the roof until nine months after it had happened.

The new measures include having a graduate student or non-member living in the house to help supervise and support the undergraduates who live there, having parents co-sign lease agreements, and requiring security deposits.

“As a landlord, I have a lot more say as to how things get done,” Garrett said. “I feel bad for the neighbors because the kids in there were essentially unsupervised, which is a recipe for disaster.”

Garrett said it’s his understanding the alumni group that managed the fraternity’s finances became inactive, which played a role in its demise.

With their fraternity banished, Wiseman said Delta Upsilon’s former members have moved into the general community or into on-campus housing, though some have graduated since last year’s fallout. He said the Office of Fraternities and Sororities is working on installing a non-member supervisor in every organization’s chapter house.

As for the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity now at 778 North Pleasant St., police have responded once to the property since its members moved in. In August, police issued a verbal warning to one of its residents for making a loud noise.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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