May 21, 2010

Frats consider independence after Goff-Crews talk

Fraternity leaders are concerned that the University may be seeking a more hands-on involvement with their organizations, which function independently of the University, after administrators recommended they improve their relationships with neighbors.

In a meeting with the Greek Council in mid-April, Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews made recommendations to fraternities with property regarding their role as members of the community at large. “I did encourage fraternities that have houses or apartments to be sure to establish communication with their neighbors and generally be good neighbors,” she said in an e-mail.

Fourth-year Theodore Nielson, former treasurer of Psi Upsilon, believes the University may initiate more fraternity oversight. “My concern is that these recommendations are vague. I have a feeling that in the next few years, once things develop, rules and regulations will be put into play,” he said.

The administration does not explicitly recognize fraternities or sororities, but interacts with them as “independent organizations that engage students and alumni,” said Bill Michel, then assistant vice president for Student Life, in an interview with the Maroon last April. Fraternity houses are owned by private groups, and because they don’t accept money from the University, they are not considered RSOs.

Fraternity leaders pointed to their own efforts to improve community relations as evidence that University involvement is unnecessary. “As far as the University goes, we appreciate the input, but we have been able to better handle our situations ourselves this year,” said third-year Zach Evans, president of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji).

Evans said Fiji has improved its reputation and relationships this year through a neighborhood relations liaison, working with the Hyde Park Union Church, and generally helping in the community.

However, fraternities are concerned their community efforts aren’t enough to keep the University happy if it is seeking a closer relationship; Evans also said Goff-Crews’s comments indicate the possibility of greater University involvement. “The University is an important aspect of the community and that’s something that we’d have to abide by­—but we’re not going to roll over if something really unfair is passed,” he said.

Although there were two allegations of criminal sexual assault taking place at Alpha Delta Phi last year, fourth-year president Onur Surgit said the fraternity has never had any complaints from the University and pointed out the fraternity has a community relations chair. “Our relations with the University have always been positive,” Surgit said.

Nielson said Psi Upsilon has a working relationship with its neighbors; the fraternity tries to be conscientious of the community, and the community “[understands] that they live on a college campus,” Nielson said.

In her comments, Goff-Crews had a stronger position, that students who live in an urban community have a responsibility to be considerate. “We all benefit from being part of a larger urban community, and we do expect students to be good citizens and good neighbors,” she said in the e-mail.

“I’d like to say we have better relationships than in the past, but there’s always room for improvement,” Evans said, adding that since the fraternities’ relations have improved and there haven’t been any recent complaints, “we’d like to continue with what we have been doing.”