ALUMNI BOARD PRESIDENT'S REPORT ON 2006:
The Year The Chapter's Relationship With Gettysburg College Changed

David W. Raymond, President of ATΩ Chapter House Corporation

The year 2006 was a year of major transition for the Chapter. The ATO relationship with the College undertook a historic change as a result of a process of negotiations between the alumni corporation and the College over fourteen months. Due to this course of events, which is described below, the ATO alumni Board of Directors was faced with the challenge of redefining its role with respect to the active Chapter.

In the summer of 2006, our Chapter House was completely renovated to comply with the College’s ambitious Life Safety Program, which was announced by the College Board of Trustees in 2004. This Life Safety Program required all College housing, including fraternity houses, to have new fire safety equipment, including sprinklers and state-of-the-art fire alarm systems, installed by 2010. Additional housing upgrades were also required by the College as part of this program. Fraternities were given the choice of paying for these improvements on their own or having the College pay for the improvements after selling their fraternity houses to the College at prices that would be offset by any assumed debt and the cost of the required improvements. The College would then become the landlord for the members living in those fraternity houses that the College acquired.

At ATO, we were not given a choice. Since our Chapter House is one of three fraternity houses already located on College owned land, the College took the position that it already held title to our Chapter House. When our current Chapter House was built in 1955, ATO alumni entered into a licensing agreement with the College that gave ATO the right to build a Chapter House on campus and to occupy and use the house as a fraternity house for an unlimited time. If ATO ever stopped using the house, the agreement provided that the house would become a College building to be used as the College deemed appropriate. This 1955 agreement was the basis for our successful challenge (started in 2001) against the Borough of Gettysburg’s attempt to impose real estate taxes on our house for the first time. The agreement established that ATO did not have marketable title to the real estate because we were using the house under the terms of a license to use the building that was granted by the landowner, which is a tax-exempt educational institution. 

Since the College administration had told us that they believed our facility was among the best maintained fraternity houses on campus, we took that view into account when negotiating with the College on the terms that would apply to their take over of the responsibility to renovate the house to comply with the Life Safety Program, as well as to take over future control of the house. Because our Chapter and alumni corporation were debt-free and the house was in such good condition that renovation of the house would be less costly than it will be for other fraternity houses, the College agreed to pay our alumni corporation a substantial six figure sum for the equity that we had built into the house over fifty years and for our agreement to grant the College control over future management of the house.

The new agreement with the College requires ATO to maintain 80% occupancy of the Chapter house or risk losing the right to use and occupy the house. Rental payments will now go to the College, instead of to the alumni corporation, with one exception: if the house is 100% occupied in any semester, the alumni corporation will receive rental income for one room. In exchange for the rental income, the College will now assume, at its expense, future responsibility for the maintenance, operation and financial management of the Chapter House, including responsibility for any necessary future capital improvements to the house.

If the alumni corporation wants to make any changes or improvements to the house, we can still do so at our own expense, if approved by the College. The roof that we added to the front porch in 2004 (before this change in control took place) is an example of the type of improvement that may not be “necessary” under the terms of the new agreement, but that we can still do at our own expense, if we get College approval.

The alumni Board carefully considered how to use the equity payment we received from the College in the best long-term interests of the Chapter. We reviewed options for endowing scholarships for active Chapter members through the College and/or the ATO Foundation with part of the funds received from the College, and we determined what our long-term investment strategy should be for the funds remaining after endowing scholarships. Information about scholarships that we established with some of these funds in 2007 is available on this website at atogettysburg.com/awards.htm.

We encourage all ATO alumni to come visit the renovated Chapter House whenever you visit the College. Even though sprinklers and other life safety features have been added, the original look and character of the house have been maintained. In addition, the plumbing and electrical wiring have been upgraded to current standards; the bathrooms were all totally renovated and the College equipped all the bedrooms with new furniture, including microwave-fridges. Photos of the 2006 renovation can be found at atogettysburg.com/totalren_2006.htm.

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