The administration has recently discussed the construction of a new fraternity complex as a part of President Taylor Reveley’s initiative to increase the capacity of on-campus housing. Juggling around alternative ideas for fraternity housing has been a Flat Hat pastime for many years now, and we are elated to finally see action on this issue, even if it is long overdue. We hope to see the administration working diligently to realize this plan as soon as possible.
The half-century-old Units that currently house fraternities on campus simply no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally built. In addition to being less plush than newer housing options like the Jamestown dorms, they are — with 36 spaces — just too big.
Now that the largest fraternities on campus have about 50 members, any fraternity interested in living in a unit will face a perennial struggle to convince a large majority of its brotherhood to live both on campus and in inferior housing, with failure to do so meaning liability for thousands of dollars in housing costs. In comparison, sororities hover around 90 members, and the houses in sorority court generally hold under twenty.
Going forward, the school should keep in mind the lessons learned from the Units. If the new fraternity village is built by the College of William and Mary and maintained through Residence Life, as Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06 has suggested, we agree this is the best course of action. The new houses should, of course, be smaller, ideally with bigger, nicer rooms. Remember: living in the fraternity house should be a privilege, not a punishment.
But some things in the Units worked well. For instance, the new houses should also have large common areas that will work well for entertaining, throwing dance parties and hosting large meetings and meals. ResLife should also consider designating these areas as private, as individual rooms currently are, in an effort to give fraternities greater autonomy and ownership over their space. But what do we know? Consulting with current fraternity members and the Council of Fraternity Affairs should continue to be integral to this process.
As always, with new developments come new opportunities to increase parking on campus. The new complex should have at least enough parking for those who will live there, and since ground will already be broken, putting in an underground parking complex should be considered. And, since this already feels like Christmas, maybe we can find room in the new complex for a Chipotle.