While incapable of creating a less repugnant title for this column, I wished for one moment that I possessed the rhetorical prowess of the University’s PR department. While towing the often dastardly line as the administration’s mouthpiece, its finest hour came while glossing over the imminent demise of the Greek-letter community initiated under the guise of the much touted Townhouse Row.
Billed as a driving force to cultivate an inimitable sense of community, Townhouse Row has quietly and effectively marginalized Greek-letter life in a manner unnoticed and unchecked by the student body. Before attempting to expose Townhouse Row for the Potemkin village that it is – or Trojan Horse, to be more apropos – first I had to dispel the myth of the “fostered Greek community” that supposedly exists within the sterile walls of the Greek condos. The method was simple.
I set out to Townhouse Row with my letters on, after passing by the Ivory Tower first and ripping something off of the walls, of course. I then proceeded to knock on each door of the three fraternities and five sororities and asked the first person who answered to list the other seven chapters on Townhouse Row. Out of the eight people asked, only three could name them all.
As Greek-letter students tend to have higher GPAs, I was left to think that the homogenization of fraternities and sororities into the same colorless houses has made them indistinguishable even to themselves. This magical community proclaimed so propitiously by the University is really just a front to control Greek-letter life and make it more like student groups than fraternities and sororities. Maybe it’s both.
The townhouses have thus provided the means for the University to mangle Greek-letter life into a malleable entity that it can push and shape as it likes. Policies that discourage the use of the houses for social events, as well as unannounced UPD intrusions, display an illogical distrust in the ability of the Greek-letter community to be governed effectively by its elected Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association representatives, or not act in a manner that would cast their chapters in a negative light.
A few residents did highlight the benefits of Townhouse Row and even I conceded that there are positive factors. It’s good to have a permanent place for Greeks to meet, even if some fraternities and sororities are left out in the cold. It’s good that Greeks can live together, even if the University is banking $1,100 a month for a student to share a room with no closets and share a bathroom with three other people. I have met plenty of students who, despite the flaws, love living on Townhouse Row.
But it is certainly suspect how the University benefits. It’s no secret that GW quelled one of its biggest PR headaches by placing fraternities that were previously based in Foggy Bottom houses under University control. And control they did. When one thinks about fraternities, the association often includes things like mixers and parties. However, because of the domineering University policies, in its first year less than five parties were thrown on Townhouse Row.
What better way to take care of your student body than to push its social scene to less controlled city venues at peak crime hours with long commutes back to campus at the end of the night? Meanwhile, the University washes its hands of dealing with alcohol violations and underage drinking while students end up unprotected and facing arrest. Between controlling Greeks, making money, avoiding responsibility and dissolving Greek-letter individuality, I’d say the University has done well for itself.
Lastly, the credibility of Townhouse Row was compromised from the get-go when GW first used it as a bartering chip to buy fraternity houses. The administration offered townhouses to fraternities that didn’t even apply while other fraternities and sororities that legitimately applied and didn’t have housing were forced to wait while the negotiations failed.
This alone shows that Townhouse Row was never about bettering the Greek-letter community, but rather capitalizing on it, dominating it and hastening its assimilation into the student organization amalgam of toolery. Consequently, Greek-letter dreams of elitism may instead become a new Greek tragedy.
-The writer, a senior majoring in Middle Eastern studies, is a Hatchet columnist.