Townhouse Row has the potential to expand and improve Greek-letter life on campus, but its vague planning and lack of fraternity and sorority commitment could inhibit current ideas for a Greek Village.
To create this Greek Village, both the administration and the Greek community should work together to finalize details and set firm plans for the new housing.
University officials say Townhouse Row will be the greatest addition to Greek life GW has ever seen. If all goes according to plan, this may be true. The Greek houses will help GW feel more like a “real” college campus, and make it more attractive to incoming students looking to join fraternities or sororities.
Along with the “Superdorm” planned for the lot across the street from the townhouses, the intersection of 23rd and G streets will be home to about 1,000 students and a true center of campus activity. Much of this activity will revolve around the Greek organizations.
Greek life has the potential to flourish in Townhouse Row. Fraternity and sorority recruitment will be much easier once more groups have houses and a private center for chapter activities, something all sororities and many fraternities lack now.
It is a great place to house fraternities and sororities – students are less likely to disturb neighbors because GW owns all adjacent property except for three townhouses. It will also bring more student activities onto campus, a safer and more regulated environment, which is better for both students and the University.
There are problems, however, that need to be addressed for a functioning Greek village to materialize. There is a possibility that this will not become a Greek center. It could be an area for affinity housing that might include a few Greek groups, but not the hub of Greek activity that it can be. Any student organization can apply to live in the townhouses if Greeks do not fill them. If this is going to be a Greek Village, keep it Greek.
GW should give priority to fraternities and sororities that can fill the houses, not those with the highest GPAs or other merits. Larger fraternities and sororities, that do not already have property, need to step up to the plate and get enough of their members to commit to fill a house. Any Greek group that can get enough members – about 24 to 30 – to move in should be guaranteed a townhouse.
If administrators reserve the right to use some of the housing for other student groups, they are giving themselves a way out of following through with the village idea. It also makes the proposal appear less attractive to Greek groups that are wary about moving into a quasi-Greek center with different student groups.
Greeks are also worried about moving into a house that is restricted to those living there and not open the whole fraternity or sorority. Traditional Greek houses are places of residence, but they are primarily centers for the entire fraternity or sorority to congregate, not just those living there. GW has yet to work out and present a system that will allow an entire Greek organization to make use of their chapter townhouse, if they were to get one.
Greeks should work together to fill these houses, there should be no open beds and consequently no reason for the University to place other students in these rooms. Smaller Greek groups, that cannot fill a house, can split a house with another small group and still keep their privacy if they divide the house correctly. Townhouse Row can become just another residence hall if the Greeks do not work together to fill it.
Administrators are showing they are interested in seeing the growth and development of the Greek community. But GW has yet to fully explain issues like security, alcohol, parties and the possibility of random students living in a fraternity or sorority house, thus hindering Greeks from making a commitment to the new housing.
Greeks have the opportunity to change GW permanently and create a community that has never before existed at GW. They need to follow through with plans and galvanize their organizations into action if a village is ever to come about.