When the University ruled that Beta Theta Pi, a fraternity on campus, violated its anti-hazing policy and would be suspended from campus, Beta fraternity brothers were shocked. For those living in the house on Lem Morrison Drive, they had less than two months to find new housing.
“When it started happening, people were kind of getting their things out,” said Trae Anderson, senior in nursing. “The vibe in the house started to change. It’s a little bit more gloomy.”
The house’s bedrooms were slowly stripped bare of personal belongings. For some residents, this had been their home for over half of their college career.
The ruling erased formal University recognition of their brotherhood. Though they believe that the bonds they’ve made with each other are eternal, some aspects of their community began to dissolve.
Anderson had been living in the Beta house since his sophomore year.
“It was a great opportunity to get to know a lot of the guys in my pledge class better or some of the other guys who went and graduated on,” Anderson said.
Anderson served as one of Beta’s rush chairs. He said he found out that Beta was being kicked off campus when the fraternity president called a meeting to let them know. He suspected this would happen when the University’s investigation started.
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“It was rough,” he said. “I was at the nursing building when I found out, which is right down the street from the fraternity house, so when I found out, I went back down to the house and there were some guys there.”
Together, they talked about it and vented their frustration.
“It was hard,” he said. “Because I know a lot of the guys who weren’t involved with the things that were going on, they felt kind of blindsided by it and kind of frustrated by it, especially the younger ones who hadn’t had the opportunity to go through, really have the experience the way that some of us older guys have.”
Beta Theta Pi was suspended for violations involving “physical abuse,” servitude and alcohol, according to letters obtained by The Plainsman that were addressed to past and present Beta Theta Pi members.
The incidents involving alcohol and physical abuse spanned several years, according to the letters, and “defied multiple interventions from the university, alumni and General Fraternity.”
Before he spoke to The Plainsman, Anderson had gone to the Beta house for the final time to get the last bit of belongings out of his room on the top floor. The University told them they had until Dec. 31, 2019, to move out.
He said it felt like a ghost town.
“Just seeing the rooms being totally empty, the house still, quiet,” he said before pausing. “It was weird. To think about the memories I had walking up those steps, coming into my room early from parties … it hit a little different. It tapped into something, and again, those memories are still there and they will always be fun, but it was pretty sad.”
Before moving out, Anderson had to figure out what to do next and where he was going to live, so he talked with his pledge brothers, who were all trying to find new housing together.
Initially, he planned to go into a house with three brothers, but it was more than he was willing to pay, so he had to back out. He decided he would search for a new place to live with another pledge brother.
“I had the foresight to say, ‘Well, the longer I wait, probably the more difficult it was going to be, so even if it’s just kind of barely looking, we should get started,’” he said.
Together, they drove around Auburn, looking for places with “For Rent” signs in the front lawn and calling realty companies, just trying to find a place that was cheap, nice and would take both of them.
“We stumbled across one and it worked out,” he said.
Sporting Greek letters no longer recognized by the University, Anderson thinks the bonds he has formed with his fraternity brothers won’t face the same fate that Beta did.
“Having the foundation of the relationship [he’s] built ... has helped a lot with the way that we’re able to interact with each other — now that it’s been disbanded,” Anderson said.
They’ll still spend time with each other, he said; just the same as they did before.
“The camaraderie of the brotherhood is still definitely there because that was one of my beliefs going into the fraternity,” he said. “It’s bigger than just paying the money. You actually do build those bonds. Now that the letters are being kind of stripped and taken away, those friendships and those relationships are still there, and they are lasting. I don’t think the camaraderie has really taken a hit, at least not from what I can tell.”
They’ll still compete in fantasy football, he said, still catch up with careers and futures and “be there for one another” after they graduate.
He said he is content with the situation now, as there is nothing that can be done.
“It was an unfortunate way for us to end our Greek careers,” he said.
However, he thinks the younger guys don’t feel the same way. Now that Beta has been suspended, sophomores who have been initiated into Beta don’t have any way out. Their Greek careers are over.
Once someone is a brother in a fraternity, they cannot rush again for another fraternity, according to Anderson.
“I was just fortunate enough to be able to have a really good experience in the time that I had,” he said.
Will Fabrizio is a sophomore in communication and lived in the Beta house in the fall 2019 semester after being initiated.
As a freshman, he spent his first semester in the Hill. The next semester, he went back home to work and to take classes.
He had pledged with Beta during his first semester and kept in contact with his pledge brothers when he went back home. He decided to come back, choosing this time to live in the fraternity house.
“It was my first time actually living with people I knew, so I was pretty excited for it,” Fabrizio said.
He said even though it wasn’t the nicest or cleanest place to live, he enjoyed being able to go right next door into someone else’s room and hang out.
He said he likes living with a lot of people.
“Through my first semester at Auburn, my group of guys was my pledge class,” Fabrizio said. “I became best friends with them. When I went home, I kept in contact with them and everything. That’s when I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go back.’”
He moved into the Beta house a week and a half before classes began. With the help of his dad, he perfected his new room.
A wobbly, unstable ladder meant a trip to Home Depot for wood and tools to make a new one — this time wall-mounted. They bought a new carpet and cut it to slip under his bed.
“We made the room nice just so it was a nice place to live for me in the semester,” he said.
Now, he lives alone in a single bedroom apartment.
“It hasn’t been bad. It’s just — living alone is all right,” he said. “Sometimes there are definitely benefits to living alone.”
Fabrizio had to sign a lease alone because most of the people living in the house — who were seniors — had already made plans on where they were going to go.
“Luckily, one of my other fraternity brothers, he has a single bedroom apartment and he’s like, ‘I think they are renting,’ and so luckily we were able to get in there on a midway lease,” Fabrizio said. “Somehow, someway, it worked out.”
He said it feels strange to think back on how quickly the investigation ended.
“It’s so funny because during the moment we were like, ‘Ugh it’s taking forever’ … and now looking back on it, it was just like … it was just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
Fabrizio said he heard the verdict around mid-November.
He soon discovered that he had to be out of the house by the end of the year. Over Thanksgiving break, he told his parents and they signed a semester lease after the holiday. They helped him move into his new apartment over Iron Bowl weekend.
He said it was weird leaving his room in the Beta house.
All of the work he put into his room stays with it.
He said he’s put about the same amount of work into his new apartment, which is close to campus. But there’s a cost to that — he pays the same amount per month on his new apartment that he did during an entire semester in the Beta house.
But he said there are good things about living alone.
“The perks are you get to keep your own place clean,” Fabrizio said. “I don’t have to worry about people dirtying up the house.”
But it can be lonely sometimes, he said. When he’s done with his homework at night, all he really has to do is play video games or watch a movie.
He remembers being able to be with his friends more often, watching sports late at night and catching up.
“It kind of sucks,” he said. “Not being able to do that anymore.”
Among those living in the Beta house, Fabrizio said the environment shifted following the University’s verdict. They didn’t want to lose the house.
“I would say that everyone definitely got a lot more sad,” he said.
He doesn’t think the dynamic between brothers has changed at all since Beta was suspended.
“I’m not worried about that part of it, because I’ve already found my close group of friends,” he said.
According to Fabrizio, his fraternity brothers have mostly been keeping to their own pledge classes since Beta suspended. The dynamic between the pledge classes has changed.
“I don’t even know why that works out, but I guess it does,” he said. “Maybe it’s just because we are all the same age and all the same grades so we kind of just relate together more.”
Next year, Fabrizio is going to be living with three of his pledge brothers in a house. They’ve already signed the lease.
“I’ve been so screwed on housing that I made sure that I got the people I wanted to live with, and we all signed the lease so we could secure it for next year,” he said.
In some way, he gets to go back.
“It’s only like four of us,” he said. “But it’s nice to be able to just live with people, have people around.”
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