Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: January 31, 2024

With deal to buy campus house, UMaine closes the book on fraternity chapter

Courtesy / Town of Orono, Vision Government Solutions The University of Maine System is purchasing the former house of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, on a parcel of the UMaine campus that was leased from the school.
The University of Maine System is making other real estate deals.
More Information

In an effort to shed under-utilized real estate, trustees for the University of Maine System on Monday greenlit the sale of three properties — but also OK'd buying one that has been unoccupied for nearly a year.

With the trustees' approval, UMS intends to complete the pending $300,000 purchase of a former fraternity house on the UMaine campus, at 117 College Ave. in Orono. The 6,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom, three-bathroom mansion was built in 1898. Now it will be razed as soon as this spring to make room for the university's steam-generation plant to expand next door.

The fraternity, a chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon that dates to 1902, was kicked off campus in 2018 after a UMaine investigation found SAE violated the school's policies on student hazing and the use of alcohol and drugs. The chapter was also found responsible for endangering the health or safety of others and for physical assault, according to a report at the time by the Maine Campus student newspaper.

The owner of the house, an alumni-led group called Minerva Corp., subsequently leased the building to other frats. The organization also began fixing it up. SAE had left it in poor condition, and in 2019 the house was valued on the Orono tax rolls at just $156,100.

Minerva's secretary-treasurer, Greg Jamison of Holden, told trustees on Monday, "We put in, at the behest of university officials and the Orono Fire Department, $200,000 of worth of repairs and upgrades and countless hours of sweat equity, making suggested improvements so that we could rent the facility."

By 2021 the house was valued at $371,700. Last year, it was worth $562,800.

Hard bargaining

The terms of SAE's suspension allowed for it to be reviewed after five years. Meanwhile UMaine, which owns the land under the house, was eyeing the structure as plans began for the University of Maine Energy Complex — the expanded, modernized steam facility whose design costs are estimated at $8.7 million.

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said, "In '21 and '22, the university began negotiations with Minerva to vacate the house. That was in anticipation of needing the land and space for the power plant project."

With the help of a third-party appraisal in February 2023, UMaine eventually negotiated a bargain price for the house, lower than even the 2021 value.

Jamison said, "Unfortunately, after what we believe was a curious appraisal, we were given — and these are words that were used — a take-it-or-leave-it offer of $300,000. Believing we had no other recourse, we signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for that amount."

Courtesy / UMaine
An aerial photo from the UMaine website shows the former house of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, flagged with an icon. The university's steam plant is shown above it. The Stillwater River is at left, and College Avenue, home to most of the school's 20-plus fraternities, is at right.

Last May, Minerva's lease of the campus parcel expired. In August the organization, like the fraternities it had rented to, was out of the house. By fall — and the traditional start to the fraternity rush season — windows and doors were boarded up.

Jamison said he was frustrated by the dealings with UMaine, his alma mater, and on Monday asked the trustees to reconsider the $300,000 deal.

"I am personally disappointed and saddened by the response that we have received thus far," he said. "I understand that the UMEC project will be very expensive ... But I still believe that with the millions of dollars that are going to be spent there, a more fair and reasonable purchase-and-sale amount for that property is appropriate."

The plea did not sway the trustees, who voted with one abstention to authorize the purchase-and-sale.

"There's been extensive conversation about this project for several years," Ferrini-Mundy said. Attempts to obtain additional reaction from Jamison and former frat members were unsuccessful.

Problematic past

The national organization of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is one of the largest and oldest fraternity systems in the U.S., with 220 chapters and roughly 12,000 active college student members.

In other parts of the country, SAE has come under fire for disciplinary problems. They include incidents of drinking, drug use and hazing linked to 11 deaths between 2006 and 2013, more than any other Greek organization in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. During the 2010s, at least 18 SAE chapters were suspended, closed or banned. In June 2022, CNN reported, the SAE chapter at the University of New Hampshire was suspended following a hazing incident that resulted in 46 arrests.

UMaine, with more than 20 fraternities and eight sororities currently active on its campus, is no stranger to brothers behaving badly.

The likely end for the former SAE house is similar to that of another former UMaine frat facility, a 13,000-square-foot building on Munson Road that was once home to a chapter of Sigma Nu.

UMaine shuttered the house in 2012 for repeated violations of the student conduct code, including the alcohol policy. The 16 resident members of the frat were offered on-campus housing. As at SAE, the suspension was to last a minimum of five years before it could be reviewed and possibly lifted, according to UMaine.

Coincidentally, Sigma Nu's 99-year lease on the campus was also due to expire in 2017. When it did, the building was demolished and replaced with a parking lot.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF