The University of South Carolina and the owner of the Kappa Sigma fraternity house sparred in court Thursday about whether members can stay in their fraternity house after the chapter lost its charter.
The Kappa Sigma Housing Corp. of Columbia, which won a temporary delay last week of USC’s order evicting Kappa Sigma members, stands to lose $320,000 in housing-and-dining fees if the $1.7 million house is empty for the spring semester, Housing Corp. attorney Everett Kendall told Circuit Judge Casey Manning.
Kendall said USC failed to follow the 40-year lease agreement for property in its Greek Village when it did not provide a 30-day notice that it was evicting members and give Housing Corp. a year-long chance to find new tenants for the house. The school also did not allow chapter members to go through the appeals process before kicking them out.
“The university bypassed all that,” Kendall said.
An attorney representing USC, Bobby Stepp, said owners of the Kappa Sigma house could sue for lost revenue but have no standing to allow members of an expelled fraternity chapter to remain in the Greek Village house. The lease calls for owners of the house to provide it for the use of an active chapter, he added.
“There is no Kappa Sigma at USC,” Stepp said.
Last month, Kappa Sigma’s national office withdrew the local chapter’s charter for five years after an investigation found hazing, and alcohol and drug violations, according to an email sent to members, alumni and parents.
The chapter will appeal that decision at a hearing in February. Meanwhile, a group of Kappa Sigma underclassmen are asking the national office to allow them to remain at the chapter house, said their attorney, Pete Strom.
Houses in the Greek Village are home to fraternity and sorority chapters, but the houses are owned by separate boards.
Kendall brought four Kappa Sigma employees — the house mother and three members of its kitchen staff — to the hearing Thursday, saying they would lose their jobs if the house closes.
However, Stepp said they have been offered other jobs at the university.
Stepp said the 30 Kappa Sigma members who live in the house risk losing spots in other USC dorms if they wait until the Jan. 11 start of the spring semester to find new living arrangements. Those students, like all USC students, have left campus now for the holiday break.
Manning said he would issue a ruling later. Attorneys don’t expect a decision before next week.