Units not the only option for fraternities

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November 17, 2009

3:23 AM

New housing options are being offered to fraternities at the College of William and Mary.

An e-mail sent to members of the College’s Greek community by Council for Fraternity Affairs President David Cooper ’10 announced that, beginning during the 2010-2011 school year, fraternities and sororities will have the option of applying for special interest housing in Camm, Dawson, Madison and Stith Halls within the Bryan Complex, as well as Chandler Hall and the Ludwell Apartments.

“There was a list of possibilities that we took to the Council for Fraternity Affairs that gave the fraternities some options,” Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin said. “If they can think of any other places, we’re open to those possibilities.”

However, Boykin said that Jamestown North and South Halls would not be considered as alternative housing choices for Greek organizations because of the high demand for rooms in those buildings among undergraduates.

Vice President for Student Affairs Virginia Ambler ’88, Ph.D ’06 and Associate Director of Student Activities Anne Arseneau ’89 were unavailable for comment.

The residence halls are being offered through ResLife as alternatives to the units for fraternities unable to fulfill the residency requirement of 36 brothers.

“Fraternity men in special interest housing over the past few years have consistently said one of the greatest things about living in the chapter house is being surrounded by what are essentially your best friends,”
Cooper said in an e-mail. “This change in policy will allow chapters for which the units were not a feasible housing option the ability to pursue this kind of living arrangement if they choose.”

Problems with meeting the residency requirement led four fraternities to forgo their special interest housing this year. The new policies would allow fraternities with smaller numbers of residential members to have an on-campus presence again.

“Last year, the Williamsburg community wasupset because they thought we were kicking the fraternities off campus because they couldn’t fill their houses,” Boykin said. “In conversations with College leadership, we were trying to figure out what to do with fraternities with smaller membership. If [a fraternity] wants to go back to the units, they can submit a roster of 36, but if they can only fill 12 spaces, they can go other places now.”

Fraternities have the option of requesting a floor in one of the satellite buildings of the Bryan Complex, which house 16-18 students per floor; a single-floor wing of Chandler, housing 21-29 students; or combining four triple Ludwell Apartments. Other residence halls were considered but eventually ruled out.

“Less desirable is Jefferson,” Boykin said. “It’s unattractive to fraternities because the third floor is substance-free, and the basement is freshmen.”

While the policy is aimed at fraternities, sororities would also have the option of choosing the new locations instead of their traditional homes on Sorority Court.

“Hypothetically, sororities could choose to live there, too,” Boykin said. “I haven’t heard any sororities complain about their current housing, however.”

In the past, fraternities at the College have criticized the units for their location, size and generally poor condition. Despite those criticisms, Boykin said that some fraternities would continue to use the buildings, while units vacated by fraternities would be converted into independent residence halls.

“There are things fraternities really like about the units, like living in a community that’s all Greek,” Boykin said. “They say they don’t like the units, but they like what they provide, as far as social space like patios and basements. That’s more than they would have in Ludwell or Bryan, where they wouldn’t have patios. They don’t like the quality, but they like the space offerings.”

Cooper said that while he expects some fraternities to take advantage of the new housing options, the center of fraternity activity will remain in the units.

“I anticipate that the units will continue to be the primary location for the fraternity community in the near future,” Cooper said. “Really, this change in practice is about letting chapters for whom the units don’t work the ability to still enjoy the benefits of living together in special interest housing.”

ResLife is considering other locations for fraternities to select from as on-campus housing options. A final decision will be made after the annual ResLife housing survey closes Nov. 30.

“We’ve talked about Ludwell, the Lodges and the [Nicholas] Apartments in the Randolph Complex,” Boykin said. “But the Lodges and [Nicholas] options are dependent on the housing survey because of their popularity with students. They’re usually the first locations to go in the housing lottery. The others we approved were not necessarily as popular.”

Should the campus community vote to allow making the Lodges available for fraternity housing, ResLife plans on making only one of the seven structures an option.

“You have seven lodges, and one goes to the RA, leaving three male lodges and three female lodges,” Boykin said. “One of the male lodges is Alpha Epsilon Pi [fraternity], which leaves only two lodges for independent men. If we made both available for fraternities, there wouldn’t be any left for non affiliated male students.”
While the decision to allow fraternities to choose housing other than the units has many in the Greek community excited, some question whether the placement of Greek organizations and activities in independent residence halls will be accepted by students. Cooper said that many Greek students already live in independent housing without incident.

“The fraternities at William and Mary are comprised of responsible and socially upstanding young men,” Cooper said. “I do not think that having a fraternity in special interest housing near other residencies will affect those not in special interest housing to any significant degree. Many non Greek students are already living next to Greek students who are not in special interest housing, this change just allows those students’ [chapters] to have a location that gets both the privileges and the responsibilities that come along with special interest housing.”

According to Boykin, students wishing to avoid Greek activities could choose to live in areas not open to fraternity housing.

“They wouldn’t have to live there, but I hope that wouldn’t be the case,” Boykin said. “We’d like to have the housing assignments made before room selection, so you would know where fraternities will be living.”

Additionally, Boykin said that distinctions between the behaviors of Greek and non-Greek students were misleading.

“These are our students and classmates,” Boykin said. “Why are they different? Whether it’s noise or the treatment of facilities, everyone is held to the same standard, so I hope there would be no problems. If there were, the self-determination policy would have a big effect. The rest of the building could exert pressure on offending students, and I hope RAs would mediate.”

The ongoing issue of fraternity housing has raised discussions about changing the College’s alcohol policy in relation to Greek organizations.

The current policy prohibits fraternities from having alcohol in the basements or first floors of their houses.
Some have suggested the College change its definitions of public and private spaces as a way to loosen restrictions on Greek social events.

“Those I’ve talked to in the administration, including all those in Student Affairs and the Dean of Students Office, have shown a willingness to discuss the alcohol policy, and particularly how it applies to those in special interest housing with CFA,” Cooper said. “I believe what held us back on this topic this semester were rumors that the Student Assembly may have been organizing or pushing for a new Alcohol Review Task Force with the College administration. I think this led to a wait-and-see approach from both Student Affairs and CFA. Next semester, I anticipate CFA will take the lead, however, and ensure this review takes place with an emphasis on the definition between public and private spaces.”

The potential shift of fraternities from the units to other housing options has also resurrected discussions about constructing a new Greek village, in the style of Sorority Court, for fraternities on campus. Boykin said that the administration had not held any recent deliberations on the issue.

“There haven’t been any recent discussions,” Boykin said. “We haven’t convened a building committee or anything, but it was discussed with [College President Taylor] Reveley as a possibility. We know we need housing.”

While the latest ResLife policies offer new options for the Greek community at the College, Cooper said that the CFA still supports the construction of a Greek community as a major goal.

“No further concrete discussions on a Greek village has taken place this semester, but the CFA will continue to advocate for new dorms, similar in style to Sorority Court, that meet the needs of our chapters,” Cooper said. “All the administrators I’ve spoken to have been receptive to this idea but unable at this early stage to offer any kind of promises or assurances that this will indeed be what happens in the near future.”

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