By Emily Tate, Managing Editor
Last month, Beta Theta Pi (Beta) fraternity purchased the former Evans Scholars house on East Church Street for $1 million.
This new property will allow Beta, whose national headquarters are located in Oxford, to further influence the culture of the block, according to Martin Cobb, director of communications for the Beta Theta Pi Foundation and Administrative Office.
Cobb said Beta intends to lease its new property on East Church Street to a “high-performing fraternity in good standing with Miami University.” Beta is already negotiating with a potential tenant, Cobb said, but he would not reveal the name of that organization for confidentiality reasons.
“By owning and, thus, establishing the guidelines by which the former Evans Scholars house operates, we can ensure a safer and more student-centered culture in that area of Oxford that has long been central to our fraternity’s existence at Miami University,” Cobb said.
The general fraternity also owns two properties adjacent to the recently vacated Evans Scholars house, and its alumni own nearby facilities on High Street.
While the housing in that location is student-dominated, Miami employees, private landlords and Beta staff members occupy several of the surrounding properties.
“Our goal is for that block to be a model of how Miami students and Oxford community members can co-exist and enjoy living in close proximity to one another.”
Miami’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi, which is the Alpha (founding) chapter of the national organization, is not itself in good standing with Miami. Its chapter closed in February 2014 after allegations of alcohol abuse and hazing, according to the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
The “recolonization,” or rebuilding, of Beta’s undergraduate Miami chapter begins June 1, Cobb said. Beta is working with the Cliff Office to set a timeline for new member recruitment in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Cobb said the fraternity is currently overseeing renovations to the former Evans Scholars property, including improvements with the interior design, bathrooms and heating and air conditioning system. They hope to complete these renovations by May.
Meanwhile, the 60-plus Evans Scholars recently upgraded to a new house two blocks down the road, marking the first house change since the Miami chapter of Evans Scholars was founded in 1974.
Blake Ryan, president of Miami’s Evans Scholars, said the new house is a welcome improvement.
“We love it here,” Ryan said. “The old one was much more difficult to live in than here. We have everything we need. The space of the house is enormous compared to what we used to live in.”
The new house also accommodates Miami’s handful of female Evans Scholars, who had previously lived in an on-campus residence hall. Until the move in January, Miami was the only Evans Scholars chapter (of the 15 nationwide) not to provide coed housing for scholars.
The only catch, Ryan said, is that the new house is on campus, meaning it falls under university jurisdiction.
“In the old house, we had more freedoms than we do in this house,” Ryan said.
For instance, two graduate resident assistants live in the Evans Scholars house and supervise the halls. The Evans Scholars must also participate in university fire safety training on Sunday, after a false alarm drew the fire department to prohibited items in the house, like hot plates and toaster ovens.