Greek-letter life is becoming increasingly stagnant on campus. Whereas only four years ago G Street – referred to as the unofficial “Greek Row” – was a hotbed of Greek-letter activity, most of these once-popular houses are now closed. The houses have been effectively replaced by the newly established University-owned Townhouse Row on 23rd Street. These houses, while affording many more fraternities and sororities the ability to have a house, have not enabled an expansion of the Greek-letter social scene.
The University has placed significant restrictions on what fraternities and sororities are permitted to do in their own houses. Despite the fact that the houses are primarily inhabited by upperclassmen, these houses are not subjected to rules similar to those imposed on other on-campus residence halls available to upperclassmen. In New Hall or City Hall, for example, students are permitted to drink alcohol in their rooms if they are of age. In Greek Row houses, fraternities and sororities are subject to party registration and harsh rules governing alcohol consumption.
The University would argue that it has a responsibility to combat underage drinking in on-campus residence halls, but it is enforcing inconsistent policies in overseeing Greek-letter organizations. The Kappa Sigma house, owned by the University, is not subjected to the same intrusive enforcement procedures as those groups living in Greek Row townhouses. This situation is even more pertinent now, given that the University is offering houses to three new Greek-letter groups. If the rules governing these houses are similar to the limits placed on those living on Greek Row, some of these groups might choose not to accept an on-campus house, rather than abide by such intense rules.
These rules run contrary to the University’s well-known goal of increasing the number of students involved in officially recognized fraternities and sororities. A vibrant social scene is sometimes a main impetus behind a student’s decision to pledge a fraternity or sorority. This social scene, however, is not entirely dependent on drinking. Fraternity parties afford members of the Greek-letter community as well as non-Greeks the ability to interact and help create a more vibrant social scene. Some of the people interested in going to these parties, or pledging a group, might be turned off, given the hurdles placed in front of such gatherings.
The construction and expansion of new Greek-letter housing options could have a positive effect on the University’s desire to create more campus cohesion, and it could expand membership in Greek-letter organizations. However, these potential benefits could be discounted if the University does not take steps to increase the accessibility of such houses to social events. The University’s goals in combating underage drinking are legitimate, but officials must strike a balance that takes into account both their own concerns and those of Greek-letter organizations.