Editorial: Common sense prevails on frat
Fraternity house mug shot, January 2, 2013
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.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst did the right thing this fall when it disbanded a longtime campus fraternity that appeared to have little regard for rules. After 32 years as a UMass fraternity, Delta Upsilon no longer exists.
Its former quarters were auctioned off Thursday. Its members no longer have a fraternity to pledge to, having been dropped by the national organization that governs campus chapters.
The move came after a series of missteps and bad behavior on the part of the fraternity chapter, the latest of which came in 2011 when a fraternity member and UMass student fell from the pitched roof of the frat house at 778 North Pleasant St. The student was badly injured and fell into a coma, but has recovered.
While partying at UMass is common, the student’s fall suggests the frat was out of control.
That incident was not the only sign of trouble at Delta Upsilon. In 2001, its frat house burned down and 23 students who lived there lost most of their belongings. It’s lucky nobody was hurt in a blaze authorities blamed on an unattended candle, but which a former frat member said was ignited by electrical wires.
After that incident, the state brought charges of disabling fire alarms against the fraternity because it had covered at least one smoke detector with plastic. In 2003, the alumni group that owned the property rebuilt a house using insurance proceeds and donations from alumni.
The frat house drew police to respond to trouble on occasion, including in 2008 for a reported fight between fraternity members and in 2010 for a report of objects being thrown at passing cars. The chapter also was dealing with mounting financial troubles.
Taken individually, any one of these incidents might be passed off as college students blowing off steam, or examples of young people making bad decisions. But put together, it goes beyond antics to behaviors that put lives at risk.
After the student fell from the roof in 2011, Delta Upsilon International Fraternity in Indianapolis suspended the UMass chapter, and last April dropped the chapter from its roster entirely.
UMass took similar action this fall, and the fraternity’s mounting financial problems led to the auctioning of its former frat house.
Now living in the building are members of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, but the property’s new owner, Scott F. Garrett of Fairfield, Conn., (who was formerly the mortgage holder of the property) told the Gazette he wants to make sure its members behave in a more acceptable way. To that end, he said, he intends to have a graduate student or non-fraternity member live in the house to help supervise the new fraternity dwelling there.
Indeed, UMass is taking steps to have a non-member supervisor in every chapter house where UMass students reside.
In our view, that is a good step, because a house full of college students with no adult supervision can become, as Garrett told a Gazette reporter this week, “a recipe for disaster.”
There are 20 fraternities and 15 sororities at UMass, the vast majority of whose members exhibit good judgement and exemplary behavior. In fact, many UMass fraternities and sororities make community service a core part of their mission.
By taking steps to remove a fraternity that has lost its way, the university helps protect the good name and reputation of the rest of the fraternities and sororities who have done nothing wrong.