The College of William and Mary has decided to create new fraternity housing on Ukrop Way. It is our opinion that even though the fraternities are an important part of campus, the details of the plan are surprising and potentially unwise in their current form.
Financially, the administration’s decision seems imprudent. The plans will create 11 new houses with 17 beds in each house for a total of 187 beds. The total cost is $26 million, or $137,000 per bed added. With an already extremely tight budget, why spend $26 million to house fraternities that technically already have housing? The Jamestown Residences, which house a substantially larger number of students, cost per bed about half of what the new fraternity houses will cost. By the numbers, it appears the future occupants of the fraternity houses will benefit from more money for housing than the average student. We understand that fraternities are dissatisfied with the Units, but we are not certain that the new complex is the most financially responsible solution.
New housing for the fraternities will also change campus culture, whether for better or worse. These plans show a renewed support for fraternities by the administration — support that has been building in recent years. In creating 11 new houses, the College is elevating the status of the campus fraternities. After fall 2013, new campus will be dominated by fraternity housing both physically and visually with houses surrounding Yates Hall and engulfing Yates Field. The administration has also stated that the purpose of the new housing is to sustain the fraternity social environment, and commemorate the College’s status as the birthplace of American university fraternities. Students come to the College with the idea that fraternities represent only a fraction of the campus, and the social scene is not one dependent on fraternities, but the new fraternity housing has the potential to make Greek life much more noticeable on campus.
The viewpoint of fraternity members must also be taken into account. Most seem pleased with the new housing, but a drawback is that there are 18 fraternities on campus and only 11 houses, making it competitive for the fraternities to get one of the houses.
The on-campus housing crunch will be affected by this plan as well. The new fraternity housing will add 187 beds to campus, and over the next four years, the College will increase enrollment by 220 students, some of whom will be able to live in the newly vacant units.
The decision to create new fraternity housing is questionable, and we are concerned about the short-term effects it will have on campus. Spending $26 million on housing designed to serve a specific group of students comprising less than one sixth of the student body is a poor move by the College administration. We understand the fraternities are important to the campus, but it is unfair for a select group of students to receive privileges over all others. The College has cultivated a particular image that may be permanently altered with the promotion of the fraternities by this new plan.
Ellie Kaufman recused herself from this editorial due to a conflict of interest.