As talk continues about the development of a new fraternity complex, some questions have arisen as to why fraternities should receive new housing — for example the ones presented in a column published in the last issue of The Flat Hat. It is understandable that these issues should be raised because they were never fully addressed previously. The debate surrounding fraternity housing seemingly took for granted the fact that a new complex was needed and moved right on to issues of how and when to construct it. This is unfortunate because an answer to the question of the necessity of new housing is a precondition for a discussion of when and how. Most likely the reasons for new fraternity housing went undiscussed because those involved in the process — fraternity members, residence life, and the administration — already believed new housing was warranted. Other students may not have the same outlook and may remain unconvinced.
The argument for the necessity of a new complex is likely the less controversial one. The units are old and run down, but more importantly, they no longer suit the demands of the fraternities they were built to house. In order to retain a unit, a chapter has to fill most, if not all, of 36 beds. While this requirement might have been possible in the past, the average size of fraternities has since declined. This year, the average fraternity size is exactly 36 members. Account for the fact that freshmen are barred from living in fraternity housing, and it becomes almost impossible for the average chapter to fill a unit. Only the largest chapters have kept their houses, with the exception of Kappa Alpha and Delta Chi, which share a unit.
A decent fraternity house is vital to the long term success of a chapter. It assists in recruitment by providing name recognition and a permanent, easily accessible location where prospective rushes can find brothers — not to mention that hosting large social events in off-campus houses or in dorm rooms can be impractical. Finally, and most importantly, a chapter house provides a space were brothers can live, work and play together, building the bonds which are the cornerstone of fraternity life.
The second point — that fraternities deserve a new complex — may be less apparent to other students. Everyone has heard the stock arguments ad nauseam. Greeks do a substantial amount of community service, they are involved in many other campus organizations, the fraternity average GPA is above the all-male average, and after graduation, fraternity members are more likely to donate to their alma mater. While these facts are generally not disputed, there is a perception among some students that brothers do nothing but drink and break things, and that their parties and slovenliness are to blame for the current condition of the units. New housing, the argument goes, would suffer the same destruction.
I take issue with this accusation for several reasons. First, although it is true that on Sunday mornings the units are not a pretty sight, one has to keep in mind that brothers are not the only people responsible. The units provide a convenient space for sororities and unaffiliated students to have a good time and serve as a pressure valve for the entire campus. It is not unusual for non-members to outnumber brothers by a wide margin.
These students get to enjoy all the advantages of the units without waking up there in the morning. Weekend messes that might otherwise be dispersed across campus dorms and student houses are concentrated in the units. Students who do not live in the units are naturally less concerned about cleanliness because, after all, the housing in question is no theirs. The next morning, brothers spend a good deal of time cleaning their rooms, halls and common areas. Given this, I feel it is unfair to criticize brothers for the dents and disarray that sometimes exists in the units. After all, fraternity members are not wholly the cause, even though they bear almost complete responsibility. I would think other students would welcome a new and effective fraternity complex, if for no other reason than to have a new place to party where someone else will clean up after them.