A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for Townhouse Row Thursday was symbolic of an anticipated expansion in Greek-letter life on campus, administrators and student leaders said.
About 50 students, faculty and staff gathered for the ceremony outside the complex, which University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called a “15-year dream.”
“I suspect this expansion will contribute to the growth of Greek life,” Trachtenberg said to the crowd. “It’s a new world for fraternities and sororities.”
The hour-long event also included speeches by Senior Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak, Panhellenic Association President Fiona Conroy and Inter-fraternity Council President Norman Pentelovitch.
In addition to the ribbon-cutting, the Freemasons of the Grand Lodge of D.C. conducted a traditional cornerstone dedication and 15-minute prayer session blessing the grounds.
Currently, about 1,500 members of the GW community are involved in Greek-letter life, or about 18 percent of the student population. But with the addition of Townhouse Row, that number is expected to grow dramatically.
Officials have said in the past that they would “eventually” like to see GW be 25 percent Greek-letter-affiliated.
“I want to assure all of you that if we work together and collaborate, Greek life will flourish,” Chernak said. “The entire Greek community should not look at this place as a last step. Remember, it took 15 years just to get this far.”
Three fraternities and five sororities are making their homes in the new complex. Each house comes complete with multiple bedrooms, a communal kitchen and a common meeting space. Six of the eight houses have a capacity for 24 students, while the two houses on each end of the row can house 32 students, holding a total of 208 students.
Members of the Greek-letter community said the dedication of Townhouse Row is a step in the right direction.
“Where many colleges are giving less support to Greek communities, GW is the (exception),” Inter-fraternity Council President Norman Pentelovitch said. “We have been given the unique opportunity to show how Greek life in an urban community works.”
Pentelovitch is a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, which has a house on F Street, not in Townhouse Row.
“Never before have we had 24 brothers living under the same roof,” said Justin Grossman, president of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, which resides on the row. “(This) will strengthen the chapter and its individual members. Since fraternities in general represent brotherhood, there is no better way to foster brotherhood than to have so many members living together.”
Fiona Conroy, president of the Panhellenic Assocation and the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, said Townhouse Row is an asset even to organizations that are not housed there.
“On an urban Greek campus, particularly one as diverse as GW’s, it is often difficult to meet all of the needs of our organizations,” she said. “Having these townhouses will provide our community with additional locations for events, as well as heightened publicity for the entire community.”
A second Townhouse Row is a possibility if the first building works out, Chernak said in an interview.