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House fire prompts questions about Greek housing

By Lisa DiCarlucci, Entertainment Editor

The fire in an off-campus house that occurred last week sparked the question of why the University does not sponsor off-campus housing for Greek organizations. Many members of sororities and fraternities want it and think it would not only be a safer arrangement but that it would be beneficial to Greek life as a whole.

As of now, the University does not provide off-campus housing, but they are attempting to provide other solutions on campus.

According to Associate Dean of Students Lynda O'Malley, off-campus housing wasn't popular or viable until a few years ago.  "Until recently, housing off campus was very hard to find," O'Malley said. This would make it difficult for the University to actually own and operate houses to house all of the Greek organizations on campus. Also, O'Malley said that it has only been in the past five years that they have seen more students moving off-campus.

Members of Greek life are very interested in an off-campus living situation however and feel that if it were provided, it would solve a lot of problems. Geoff Smith, a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity who lives off-campus feels it would be a safer option to independent off-campus housing. "Public Safety would be able to patrol the streets and make sure that break-ins, which I know many people have had happen to them, will not occur," Smith said. "It keeps Greeks in a safe environment that is not on campus."

Jennifer Sacks, president of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, lives off-campus and also agrees that this would be a safer option because the University could provide supervision. "Typically in sorority houses, there are house-moms who monitor the girls, similar to an RA, just making sure everyone's safe and providing some type of administrative figure," Sacks said.

Alyssa Coco, president of Alpha Theta Beta lives on-campus but feels that if off-campus housing for Greek life was sponsored, it could give them an opportunity to improve their standing with the University. "If Greek life was allowed to show they are responsible for upkeep of a house," Coco said, "it would show the administration that they could be responsible with other things."

In 1987, the University introduced a program that allowed Greek organizations with good academic standing to live in the Netherlands' Breukelen house. Currently, the University is encouraging theme housing in Nassau and Suffolk halls and hopes that Greek organizations will take advantage of this option.

"We have been working hard to involve Greeks back in the housing program and had dedicated suites to Greeks in Nassau and Suffolk halls for next year," O'Malley said. "We would still welcome the Greeks to return to our themed housing program.  Unfortunately, to date, no organizations have taken us up on our offer."

The fraternity and sorority members that live off-campus, while open to University support, do not plan on returning to residential life.  "Living in the dorms is just too much hassle," Smith said,  "While it is cool to not pay utilities, an off-campus house offers much more to me." Sacks agrees saying, "I wanted to have my own room as well as the opportunity to live with a bunch of people."

While it is unclear whether the University will provide off-campus housing for Greeks in the future, they make a conscious effort to inform students who choose to live off-campus about safety issues.

"Our Off-Campus Housing office has worked very hard to educate our students on all types of matters regarding fire safety, reviewing leases, how to be a good neighbor, etc," O'Malley said.  "So, we have tried to be proactive in making sure our off-campus students are safe while living on their own."

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