The Greek letters are down, the fraternity crest is gone and the house that was once home to the Santa Barbara chapter of Phi Gamma Delta – also known as FIJI – is all but empty.
In a lawsuit filed Sept. 24, Jason Belsky, a member of FIJI’s Fall 2002 pledge class, accused the fraternity of hazing him and his fellow pledges during their pledging process. The university withdrew its recognition of FIJI in Spring 2003 as a result of hazing allegations and ordered the fraternity to remove its letters and crest from the front of its frat house and to cease all participation in greek functions and activities. FIJI is still allowed to participate in greek informational meetings.
As part of the disciplinary action taken against the fraternity, the university announced that there would be a four-year waiting period before any group could apply to operate under the name Phi Gamma Delta and this period would not begin until FIJI complied with all of the university’s requests. Despite the university’s orders, members of FIJI did not remove their fraternal emblems, which have remained in view at the frat house at 765 Embarcadero del Norte, for several months.
Dennis Emory, a representative of El Greco Investors, LLC, the group that owns the property, said the house has been FIJI’s home since it was built in 1995. Now, the property has been deserted by all but a few tenants. Emory said he did not evict the fraternity from the house and that its members moved out on their own volition.
Emory said the reason most of FIJI moved out is because without an incoming pledge class they did not have enough members to fill the house, which was built to accommodate approximately 30 residents. Following their international chapter’s request, FIJI did not hold a rush this Fall Quarter.
“They were good tenants, and they would still be living there if it weren’t for the lawsuit,” Emory said.
Emory said he had the fraternity’s letters and crest removed earlier this week and he took down the fraternal symbols as part of the process of preparing the house for a new group of tenants.
“We are starting to think about [new tenants] right now,” Emory said. “We’re looking for a group to come in and take FIJI’s place.”
El Greco Investors is one of the defendants named in the suit, but the company is exempted from all charges except for “Negligence (Premises Liability).” Emory said he is not especially worried about the lawsuit, but that there is no way to predict who a judge might hold responsible.
“I don’t think I did anything negligent,” Emory said. “I feel badly that someone was damaged.”
Joshua Finestone, president of the Interfraternity Council, said the lawsuit has been an “eye-opener” for the greek system.
“It shows us that we are not untouchable and we do need to follow the rules,” Finestone said.
J. B. Goll, director of Chapter Services at FIJI International, said the UCSB FIJI chapter is still recognized by the international chapter even though it is no longer sanctioned by the university. The international chapter has put the local chapter on suspension. FIJI International is not currently working with the university to investigate the hazing allegations.
“Both parties are conducting separate investigations,” Goll said.
Now that the FIJI house is nearly deserted, Emory said he was eager to pursue the idea of turning the property into an international house, which could provide students who come to Santa Barbara from foreign countries for three or four weeks at a time with a place to live. Such students might otherwise have trouble finding housing because many landlords want tenants to sign year-long leases.
“It would be nice if the university would take over the place and turn it into something like an international house for short-term students,” Emory said.