Solutions to the College of William and Mary’s Greek housing situation could come in the form of a new fraternity village.
“We are looking at that as a possibility,” Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 said.
“I’ve heard from several students that that’s appealing.”
Last week’s meeting of the Board of Visitors established the expansion of on-campus housing as one of the priorities of the College.
“Part of the strategic plan is increasing bed space by 200 to 250 beds on campus,” Ambler said.
According to the Council for Fraternity Affairs President David Cooper ’10, members of the College’s administration and the Greek community have shown support for a “Greek village” community of fraternity housing as an answer.
“I know that ResLife had expressed interest in building new dorms in the next four to six years and I know … that Ginger Ambler and everyone else was pushing for a Greek Village type scenario,” Cooper said.
The recent struggles of fraternities at the College have compounded an already difficult housing situation.
“If I could wave my magic wand and change one thing, it would be that we have new housing,” Associate
Director of Student Activities Anne Arseneau said.
Ambler would not confirm that the College is currently committed to building a village for College fraternities.
“The administration recognizes problems with fraternity housing,” Ambler said. “We’re working with students to come up with several options … Could it be a Greek village? Yes, it could be a Greek village. In the future, that could happen … [but] we are not even at that point yet.”
Cooper said that the administration’s discussions of a Greek village show that the College is serious about addressing the dilemma faced by fraternities.
“That just reinforces the fact that it’s on all of their radars — Greek Life, Student Activities, ResLife — as something that needs to be addressed,” Cooper said.
Ambler said the College is looking into different arrangements for fraternity housing based on the College’s needs and abilities.
“There are multiple models to work with,” she said. “Our current model is that the facilities are on-campus facilities run through ResLife.
“Other colleges have models where the land is leased to and operated by the national fraternity organization. We want what works best for us.”
While some administrators, including Ambler, have said finding solutions to the fraternity housing problems are priorities, no schedule has been set to remedy the situation.
The location of any future housing construction is also uncertain. Any new construction would have to be
preceded by a land survey to find suitable building sites.
“Before we did anything, we would conduct a feasibility study to see what kind of housing model works best for our campus,” Ambler said. “There was an extensive feasibility study done several years ago when they built the Jamestown dorms on Barkesdale field. We would use that as a starting point.”
Cooper said fraternity housing could be built at locations where new on-campus housing had been discussed in the past.
“A lot of the places that I had initially heard of were the woods behind Dupont, behind Botetourt, behind the Rec Center where the College actually has space to build,” Cooper said.
While the future of fraternity housing remains unclear, should new Greek housing be constructed, the function of the units as housing would not change.
“We need all the residential space [we can get] on campus,” Ambler said. “[The units] would all be used by students on campus in some capacity … There’s no plan for to tear them down. They would remain part of the ongoing maintenance plan.”
Cooper said that the fraternity units should become freshman dorms.
“I personally think they make a great location for freshman housing,” Cooper said. “They’re similar in style and type to Botetourt, and it can create a stronger freshman community up there with Yates, Botetourt, Dupont and then the units.”
According to electronic residence surveys conducted by ResLife, the continued use of the units might not be welcomed by all residential students.
“The data set from the pool of members [surveyed] showed that, in general, fraternity members and residents were less satisfied [with their housing] in many areas,” Arseneau said.
Arseneau said that negative opinions about the units are not new, and that the unsatisfactory surveys could stem from fraternity members dissatisfied with the Greek housing situation.
“I think the critical issue is the continued frustration,” Arseneau said. “[This] data has not been significantly different in 2008 as in 2006 and 2007. More of the huge negative response comes from anger over the removal of the buyout policy.”
As discussions continue, Cooper said that he hopes the Greek community is involved in the planning of any future housing construction that could end a problem that has long afflicted fraternity members.
“I and the rest of the people involved with the Council for Fraternity Affairs will have, I hope, a lot of input into the final say,” Cooper said.
Although the solution may not come in the form of a Greek village, Ambler said that the College supports fraternities on campus.
“Whatever we do will support Greek life on campus,” Ambler said. “The whole reason we’re looking at all is the current housing situation doesn’t support fraternities.”