Residents of the Tuscaloosa-Lakewood neighborhood in Durham are petitioning the Durham City Council to ban fraternities from residential neighborhoods.
The petition calls members of Alpha Delta Phi residing at five addresses on Chapel Hill Road—nicknamed the Compound—a “public nuisance.” Students are accused of violating noise ordinances, obstructing traffic, shouting obscenities and allowing litter and trespassing. As of Monday at 10:30 p.m., the petition had 162 signatures.
“For many years, their privilege has protected these students from being upheld to a higher standard as members of our local community,” the petition reads. “The neighbors of Tuscaloosa-Lakewood and the Durham community as a whole urge the city to take action to put an end to the disruption, and ban the existence of fraternity houses in our residential neighborhoods.”
The petition alleges a fraternity member was caught urinating on a house; a video linked in the comments shows someone in dark clothing appearing to argue with residents before going to stand below the porch of one of the houses.
Amie Koch, assistant clinical professor in the School of Nursing, said that she has lived in the area for over 20 years and there have been “on and off” issues with partying, with some years being worse than others. This past weekend, a resident emailed the neighborhood listserv saying that intoxicated men had caused a disruption and urinated on her house. Other neighbors chimed in with their grievances, with some saying that their children couldn’t sleep due to the noise from Duke students.
Koch said she signed the petition as a show of solidarity with the neighborhood and because she doesn’t view the fraternity’s alleged behavior as representative of all Duke students.
“That is not the Duke student that I know,” Koch said. “I teach in the School of Nursing but I also work with undergrads, [physical therapy] students and global health students. It breaks my heart that the community sees this sliver of students that is rude, unneighborly and urinating on someone’s house.”
Koch said she hopes the University takes action and noted that it had tried to do so in the past.
ADPhi president Cole Darrow, a junior, wrote in an email that “numerous” allegations in the petition predated current members of ADPhi and that the fraternity has taken action to prevent the issues mentioned, including “proactively engaging with the neighbors.”
Darrow denied that the person in the video was a member of ADPhi.
“The individual mentioned urinating on said house has since been identified and is neither a member of ADPhi, nor were they invited to our event,” he wrote. “The individual was trespassing on our property prior to this incident.”
Darrow added that the fraternity apologized to the neighbor upon hearing of the incident.
“The members of our fraternity and our invited guests are under strict guidance to obey property lines as well as to keep all trash on our property,” he wrote.
The petition references drug use as well as an incident in which a fraternity member died in a crash and another member was convicted for driving while impaired, to which Darrow responded that ADPhi condemns drunk driving and the use of illegal drugs.
The petition also references previous allegations of sexual assault against the fraternity, and Darrow wrote that the petition “inaccurately insinuates” ADPhi was removed from campus because of these allegations.
In a comment on the petition, Durham resident Scott Valentine wrote that he has been fighting ADPhi and the owner of the Compound, James Ludington, for 14 years.
Valentine referenced a letter he received in 2016 from lawyer Robert Ekstrand on behalf of Ludington, which states that Valentine’s complaints to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards were “unwarranted and misleading” and could “cause Mr. Ludington to lose existing tenants and interfere with Mr. Ludington’s ability to attract and contract with new tenants, resulting in potentially considerable financial losses.”
The letter then encouraged Valentine to “cease and desist any further action that may cause any current or prospective tenants of the Residences to quit or decline to enter into a lease agreement with Mr. Ludington.”
“To some this may simply be a petition to stop bad behavior. To me, the [ADPhi] fraternity has been life-changing, almost life-ending,” Valentine wrote. “If you think this is something to laugh at, then you have not experienced it. This is the power of a fraternity; this is the power of a Duke fraternity.”
Ludington has owned the five houses since 2004 under his own name and Auris Ventures LLC, according to the Durham Register of Deeds. Koch said that Ludington “makes a ton of money” from his rentals and that neighbors’ attempts to resolve the issue with him directly have been unsuccessful.
Ludington did not immediately respond to a text message requesting an interview.
Similar complaints about ADPhi and noise were highlighted by local news outlets in 2018. In 2019, the Durham Police Department started an initiative to quell noise at off-campus parties while avoiding citations or arrests. A few months into the program, The Chronicle was informed by DPD and residents that students were doing better at keeping the noise down.
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Nadia Bey is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 117.