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Alpha Sigma Phi Undergraduate Housing Corporation v. Division of Fire Safety

OAL Dkt. No. CAF-6186-02 (Division of Fire Safety DFS-638-02, 2003)

DORMITORIES; FRATERNITIES—Under the Uniform Fire Code, if a school considers a student organization to be a fraternity, it is even if the organization does not consider itself to be one, and if the organization has a building with housing accommodations, that building is a dormitory.

A Greek letter organization contended that it was not “recognized” as a “fraternity” as that term was defined in the regulations promulgated pursuant to the Uniform Fire Code. This was important because the organization contended that its building was not a “dormitory,” as also defined in the Administrative Code. Under the relevant section, a “[d]ormitory means a building, or portion thereof, containing rooms which are provided as residences or for overnight sleeping, for individuals or groups, and includes those residence[s] utilized by fraternities and sororities which are recognized by or owned by a school or institution of higher learning, but does not include those residences or multi-dwellings utilized by students which are not recognized by or owned by a school or institution of higher education.” Here, the Division of Fire Safety contacted the university for a list of fraternities and sororities, and received a list containing the Greek letter organization as a fraternity. The word “fraternity” in the administrative regulations is defined to mean “any student organization recognized as such by a school or institution of higher education that occupies a building used by its members as a dormitory.” The Administrative Law Judge concluded “that it is not essential that the organization be recognized as a fraternity or sorority in order for the fire protection regulations to be applicable. Any organization, whatever its name or purpose, which is recognized by the school or institution is a fraternity. If the organization also provides residences or sleeping accommodations, those accommodations constitute a dormitory.” Notwithstanding the circularity of the definition for “fraternity” relying on the definition of the word “dormitory,” the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs adopted the Administrative Law Judge’s decision as her final decision.


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