By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
The University of New Hampshire has purchased the property at 66 Main St. Durham, formerly used as the chapter house of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
“The university and the town are committed to a redevelopment of the site that enhances the downtown and provides a positive economic benefit,” Associate Vice President of Business Affairs David May said.
On Sept. 23, UNH closed the deal for a price of $2.1 million. The money came from strategic funds, which the president may use for strategic initiatives. In this case, President Huddleston obtained the approval of the board of trustees before purchasing the house.
No decision about what the property will become has been reached. However, according to May, the town of Durham and UNH have both expressed interest in the possibility of a hotel.
The town and university are currently in the process of drawing up a memorandum of understanding, a document which will clarify to both parties how to move forward with the property.
UNH is seeking the approval and guidance of the board of trustees and will then submit their plan to the town for approval.
“A vibrant downtown benefits UNH, the town of Durham, students and the larger community,” May said. “We felt by owning the land, we could work with the town to ensure a development that would be beneficial to UNH interests.”
Erin Courville, the coordinator of Greek life at UNH, could not comment on the future of Alpha Tau Omega on the UNH campus because of the fraternity’s loss of recognition in 2011.
Not only does the suspension mean the fraternity is not under Courville’s coordination, but Alpha Tau Omega is also banned from using UNH’s name, receiving student organization funding or using UNH’s facilities.
Alpha Tau Omega fraternity has been unrecognized by UNH since its suspension in Oct. 2011.
According to articles published in The New Hampshire around the time of ATO’s unrecognition, fraternities or sororities lose their recognition when it comes to the university’s attention that the Greek organization shows lassitude in its oversight of hazing, sexual harassment or risk management policies.
Alpha Tau Omega’s suspension was due to a case in which an underage female required medical attention for excessive alcohol consumption after attending a party at Alpha Tau Omega’s house. The fraternity was to be suspended for five years.
Alpha Tau Omega’s New Hampshire chapter also lost its charter with its national organization, which is owned by the Gamma Theta Corporation, following the arrest of eleven members at the Durham property in a drug raid in Nov. 2011.
The drug raid was the result of a tip from an informant, who provided police with a marijuana brownie purchased at Alpha Tau Omega’s house.
The raid revealed substances including marijuana and prescription drugs in the house.
The house was immediately closed and pronounced uninhabitable due to violations of fire, health and electrical safety codes.
The arrests were part of a repeated pattern of poor behavior from Alpha Tau Omega, which included hazing and sexual harassment charges and recruiting underage members for open parties within residential halls despite the presence of hall directors and RAs.