The owner of the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on the University of South Carolina campus has won a temporary court order that stops the school from kicking out chapter members.
Chapter members were told to leave by Sunday after the fraternity’s national office imposed a five-year ban on the USC chapter last month. Kappa Sigma’s national office said it uncovered hazing and alcohol violations as well as unapproved spending of more than $20,000 for loans and legal fees, according to an email sent to alumni and parents.
Kappa Sigma’s USC members have disputed the version of events shared by the national office. They say university officials exaggerated to national fraternity representatives the violations that were found at a raid of a pledge event at an off-campus home.
The USC chapter has filed an appeal of its five-year ban with Kappa Sigma’s national office and will have a hearing on Feb. 21 in Coral Gables, Fla., according to a member of the chapter’s housing board.
The Kappa Sigma national office declined to comment Thursday. Efforts to reach USC chapter representatives this week have been unsuccessful.
Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee signed a 10-day restraining order Wednesday barring the chapter’s eviction from USC. In its complaint to Lee, the Kappa Sigma Housing Corp. of Columbia said it feared losing housing and dining fees for the spring semester because of USC evicting the chapter’s members.
The corporation owns the fraternity’s house in USC’s Greek Village, but the school owns the property. USC informed Kappa Sigma members on Dec. 1 that they must leave the house by Sunday, the end of the fall semester, according to the lawsuit.
Kappa Sigma Housing Corp.’s complaint alleges USC evicted chapter members before all their appeals were exhausted and without notifying the house’s mortgage lender, as required by a 40-year land lease. The corporation said it received no written notice about the eviction or university plans to break the lease.
The Housing Corp. asks USC to collect chapter members’ room-and-meal fees for the spring semester. Those fees produced $476,802 in revenue for the Housing Corp. in 2012, according to tax returns.
Lee’s temporary-restraining order lasts through Dec. 20. A hearing before Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning is scheduled for Tuesday in Columbia.
The corporation’s attorney, Everett Kendall, and USC declined to comment on the case Thursday.
Three other USC fraternities that have lost their charters since 2011 did not file lawsuits to stop the eviction of their members, according to court records. Instead, the corporations owning those fraternity houses rented them to other sororities or fraternities.
Kappa Sigma is one of the oldest fraternities on USC’s campus, opening in 1890. It also is one of the largest, having 134 members as of last spring.