Officials to remove Greek housing from International House

Media Credit: Naishi Jhaveri | Hatchet Photographer
Officials cited “behavioral issues” when it announced Greek organizations will no longer be housed in International House next academic year.

Officials confirmed Greek groups will no longer have affinity housing in International House next semester, citing “behavioral issues.”

Seven Greek organizations currently live in the Virginia Avenue residence hall, but Greek housing will be limited to Strong Hall and townhouses next academic year, student leaders said. Student leaders said they hope members of Greek life have the opportunity to apply for affinity housing, which Greek organizations are currently not permitted to do, and said they were frustrated they were not consulted before GW made the decision.

Director of Student Involvement and Greek Life Christina Witkowicki said the University looked at “the overall housing inventory, the number of chapters eligible for housing and the size of those chapters” when it decided to remove Greek groups from the residence hall.

“Recently, due to behavioral issues of Greek organizations in International House, and because several townhouses have recently become available for groups in good standing, the University determined it is no longer prudent to house Greek groups in International House,” she said.

Witkowicki did not provide specific details about the problems in the residence hall. Members of the Kappa Alpha Order, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Delta Tau, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Zeta Beta Tau and Lamba Chi Alpha live in International House. All seven chapters have faced sanctions over the last several years, according to GW’s list of student organizations with conduct violations, which officials updated earlier this month.

Witkowicki said Greek organizations are not eligible to apply for affinity housing “because of the large number of housing options already available to them.” She declined to say which students would live in International House next academic year and declined to provide figures on the number of Greek life members living in the building this year.

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, said in Monday’s Student Association meeting that he planned to advocate for Greek organizations, especially those without Greek townhouses, to be able to apply for affinity housing. Falcigno, who currently lives in International House, is a member of Beta Theta Pi and the vice president of International House Hall Council.

“Taking away International House and not giving us that option really deters the mission of Greek life, which is to bond through brotherhood and sisterhood,” he said.

Panhellenic Association President Rebecca Connolly said that only one sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, will lose all of its current housing on campus because of the decision. Sigma Delta Tau was also evicted from its on-campus townhouse in January 2014. All other Panhellenic sororities have other options, like on-campus townhouses or Strong Hall, she said. Alpha Epsilon Phi, the only other sorority in International House, has a townhouse on F Street.

“There were a lot of things that went into the decision, one of them being we just aren’t filling it anymore. For example, this year, the first two floors are freshmen and sophomore housing and that’s just not working as a system anymore,” she said. “International House is the smallest dorm on the Foggy Bottom campus, and we can’t move to a smaller building.”

International House can hold up to 176 residents according to GW’s housing website. For the first time in recent years, 19 freshmen live in the residence hall this academic year.

Connolly said there were some “behavioral issues” with chapters in the building, adding that the residence hall does not have common rooms, so chapters had no space to hold meetings or other events.

“We don’t see it as a long-term catastrophe. It’s a bummer, but there are definitely opportunities for our chapters to have housing in the future,” she said.

Interfraternity Council President Brandon Capece said in an email it is “discouraging” that the Center for Student Engagement did not consult with student leaders before the decision was made.

“We believe that [International House] is a vital part of our Greek system and are disappointed that many chapters will be seeing a reduction in communal space for the upcoming year without being given adequate opportunities to offer input on the situation,” he said.

Falcigno and Residence Hall Association President Mike Massaroli contacted Director of GW Housing Seth Weinshel during winter break to ask for more information about the decision, they said. Massaroli is also a member of Beta Theta Pi and lives in International House.

“I am additionally frustrated that the leaders of our Greek community were not given the opportunity to offer their feedback, and that little student feedback was sought before making such a serious decision,” Massaroli wrote in the email to Weinshel that was obtained by The Hatchet.

At a Student Association meeting last year, Weinshel said District House will have affinity suites for student groups with “significantly sized” dining and living areas.

“Unfortunately as far as I can tell, the plans for next year are pretty set in stone. I want to lay the groundwork for Greek affinities together in residence halls again,” Massaroli said. “GW should look into ways to offer this type of housing to students who use it responsibly.”

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