University drops Greek townhouse bills

The University dropped tens of thousands of dollars in housing charges for Greek-letter organizations this week, citing economic issues that prevented groups from filling spaces in their University-owned townhouses over the summer.

By contract, Greek-letter groups are obligated to fill 95 percent of the beds in their University-owned townhouses all throughout the year. Groups that were unable to fulfill this obligation were charged thousands of dollars for the unfilled spaces, and at least three groups received charges of more than $10,000.

At a meeting Monday afternoon, Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the University would drop the housing charges.

“We are forgiving charges on a one-time basis after hearing the stories and evidence that [Greek-letter groups] made every effort they could to fill the townhouses,” Chernak said.

Peter Konwerski, associate vice president and chief administrative officer for SASS, added that “summer bills for the Greek houses have literally been ripped up.”

Greek-letter life leaders said that sororities and fraternities do not have trouble filling space in their townhouses during the academic year, but problems arise during the summer, when many chapter members head home.

Chernak said he understood the issues chapters had, adding that when Greek-letter groups signed leases for townhouses four years ago, there was a different economic environment and it was easier for groups to fill vacancies over the summer.

“Unemployment is up, there are not as many paid internships as there used to be,” Chernak said, adding that this was a major reason for the reprieve Greek-letter groups received.

Chas Pressner, president of the Interfraternity Council, said that Greek-letter chapters involved in the meeting came prepared, and the administrators at the meeting were attentive and receptive to their concerns.

“The Greek chapters that went in there, no one complained, they explained their opinions and their concerns and Dr. Chernak completely agreed,” Pressner said. “He waived those fees, which was terrific. It’s just another example of the University being willing to cooperate when both parties sit down at a table to talk like civilized human beings.”

Dean Harwood, director of Greek life, said he, too, was pleased with the outcome of Monday’s meeting in a one-sentence statement.

“I fully support the outcome from Monday’s meeting, and I greatly appreciate Dr. Chernak’s continuing support of Greek Life at GW,” he said in an e-mail.

Nicky Sampogna, president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said he attended the meeting and thought the discussion between students and administrators was civil and sincere.

“He knew what we were going through,” Sampogna said of Chernak, adding that Chernak “was very understanding and sympathetic to our cause.”

Sampogna said all of the Greek-letter groups involved are glad the issue has come to a close.

“I think it’s a big relief for obvious reasons that this bill isn’t going to be looming over our heads, whether it be in the housing application process or in terms of programming in general,” Sampogna said.

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