On Monday, at least three Greek-letter organizations were charged more than $10,000 for not filling their townhouses to capacity during the summer. The charges arose from a clause in the leasing contract with the University stipulating that the townhouses must be filled to 95 percent capacity at all times. This week’s conflict highlights not only a clause that should be changed, but also an underlying sense of fear regarding the lease application process.
The section of the leasing contracts that require Greek-letter organizations to fill townhouses to capacity during summer months are inherently unfair. The cost of living in a townhouse over the summer is equivalent to that of living in Ivory Tower and other residence halls. But the rooms in Ivory Tower offer more room and better amenities than many of the townhouses, making townhouse rooms a hard sell for summer residents. The onus for making this difficult deal falls onto the Greek-letter organizations, which end up being responsible for issues like residents dropping housing at the last minute. While there is a need to fill as much space as possible for financial reasons, the current 95 percent threshold is unrealistic.
For the situation at hand, GW should reduce the fines that the Greek-letter organizations now face. It is understandable that failing to uphold an aspect of a contract should result in repercussions. But, simply put, the consequences are too extreme. The expectation that these organizations should pay huge swaths of their annual budget on a few summer vacancies is unreasonable.
But much more important than reducing the fines, or even revising the leasing contracts, is the need to address the fundamental issue that has created the situation. Much of the story can be told in a single sentence from The Hatchet’s story in this issue: “Greek-letter groups who do not pay these charges in full will be unable to reapply for a University-owned townhouse when contracts expire this year, the president – who was granted anonymity for fear of retribution – said.” The fear created by the lease application process has left Greek-letter leaders afraid to publicly tackle a legitimate concern such as the occupancy threshold requirements. While a Greek-letter organization should be expected to uphold a certain level of responsibility in exchange for being leased a townhouse, that leverage should not go so far as to deter the leaders of those organizations from openly discussing the issue.
Three things need to happen in order to permanently resolve the situation: the summer threshold clause needs to be revisited, the severity of the fines needs to be reduced, and the fear surrounding the application lease needs to be mitigated.
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