Penn State

What’s ahead for Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi house?

The former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at 220 N. Burrowes Road.
The former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at 220 N. Burrowes Road. Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State University is attempting to buy back the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, according to a court document filed Monday.

“Should we prevail, the property would be put toward a positive purpose, though we have not determined a specific use at this time,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said. “We do wish to reiterate the university permanently revoked Penn State’s recognition of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and therefore, this chapter would never be allowed to return to that property or be recognized by the university. The university would not use the property for any Greek letter organization.”

Penn State executed a deed with the Alpha Upsilon chapter of the fraternity in 1928, which transferred the land at 220 N. Burrowes Road to the fraternity, according to the document.

Beta Theta Pi announced it was closing the fraternity on Feb. 17, 2017 and Penn State permanently revoked recognition of the fraternity a month later after 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 4, 2017.

“If for any reason the said building or buildings should cease to be used as a chapter or fraternity house ... the university reserves the right to purchase the property,” Penn State attorney David Dulabon said in a Aug. 28 email.

Dulabon said the university objects to any potential sale or transfer by the fraternity and did not waive its right under the deed.

Penn State President Eric Barron and David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business, were included on the email.

Alpha Upsilon received rooming house and rental house permits, but Penn State said they have the right to resume ownership of the premises at a mutually agreed upon purchase price.

Alpha Upsilon attorney Mark Bernlohr rejected Penn State’s purchase offer on Aug. 30, but agreed to meet with the university and its representatives. The two sides met on Sept. 18, but were unable to agree on a purchase price, according to the document.

“Penn State is entitled to purchase the premises at issue, with the price to be set by one or more arbitrators or as may otherwise be directed by the court,” Penn State attorney James Horne said.

Tom Kline, attorney for Jim and Evelyn Piazza, said the family was encouraged by Penn State’s efforts.

“With Beta forever banned from Penn State, this structure rightfully belongs in the hands of Penn State to put it to a proper educational use which advances the purposes of the university,” Kline said.

Former Beta Theta Pi brother Ryan Burke pleaded guilty to charges of hazing in relation to the death of Beta pledge Timothy Piazza in February 2017. Burke's attorney, Philip Masorti, said his client extended his condolences to the Piazza family.

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