Columbia University administrators tighten control over Greek Life
By Sara Maria Hasbun
Columbia University Greek Life is facing an administrative crackdown on parties, according to students who belong to campus sororities and fraternities. Members of fraternities worry that Hot Jazz, a yearly event put on by ADP, may not be the last casualty.
"Greek advisers and the IGC have been cracking down on unregistered parties," said Margy McCullough, president of the Inter-Greek Council. She said that fraternities are faced with a dilemma: register parties and be denied approval, or not register and get punished.
"None of the brownstones are up to code," McCullough said. "There are very few registered parties at this point, and we're making a move to change that, but now with the fire code it's basically impossible."
Michael Magdaleno, president of Alpha Delta Phi, said he was upset about the way that administration handled approval of their annual event, Hot Jazz, which was canceled early in April.
According to Magdaleno, the second inspection was a week and a half before the event itself, although the administration had known of the matter a month before. The late notice cost the fraternity $850-$1,000 in sunk costs for Hot Jazz.
"We had already contracted a band," he said. "We were in the process of ordering alcohol. We had to cancel that. We had already ordered things like decorations, cups, all the necessities."
According to Herman Matte, Director of Housing, ADP had requested 650 people for the event in a brownstone that could legally hold no more than 74. "That's just not possible." he said. University Housing and Dining did offer the organization alternate locations, but Magdaleno said that all other locations were "prohibitively expensive. It just wouldn't be fiscally responsible."
"For the past 20 years we've had a 300-person guest list at least," Magdaleno said. "Where was the university over the past 20 years if we were doing something illegal and unsafe?"
"Its just something that needed to be done. " McCullough said, explaining that the recent change in administration overseeing greek life may have played a role. The fraternities that had been overseen by University Housing -- which oversees faculty and graduate student housing -- are now under the jurisdiction of Columbia Housing and Dining, which oversees undergraduate residences.
According to University Spokesman Robert Hornsby, Columbia Housing and Dining events "might be more strictly regulated. It also could be that it [the situation] wasn't ignored, but rather managed differently."
Hornsby said that had the police or fire department been contacted during parties in the past, the events would have been broken up.Inspections are now conducted by Joseph McCormick, associate director of public safety, who declined to comment on whether inspections had happened or why the event was allowed to happen in the past. Inspections were previously conducted by members of the staff of University Housing.
Eleanor Daugherty, Associate Dean of Student Affairs declined to comment by press time.The IGC is torn between the needs of the fraternities and the requests of the administration.
"We want to have a vibrant greek life, but the best way is to have the administration like you," McCullough said. "We're just trying to gain respect, and then you can ask for what you want." She believes that the crackdown has already affected greek life at Columbia.
"A lot of organizations are afraid of being caught for having those parties, or they're becoming much smaller."The crackdown will affect fraternities in differing degrees, Magdaleno said.
"For some brownstones it may be impossible to bring them up to code," he said.
"For others it could be as simple as installing more emergency lights and making sure that all exits are unblocked.
Bottom line is that to my knowledge, they haven't even begun to look into this as a possibility.
"ADP isn't the only member of greek life that will feel the pinch, according to Magdaleno. "The Theta house won't even be able to have a meeting with active alumni and current membership," he said. "They should they have the right to gather in their own home."
Theta members declined to comment.
"We're pretty much always a full house," said Edward Beaulac, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, who worries about the future of parties at Pike. "There are always people waiting at the door. Now we might not even be able to have every member in the house for chapter meetings.
The administration is definitely getting more strict. Columbia is only 9 percent greek. For the most part, people go out to bars-which is not like most schools."He is concerned that fewer parties will hurt recruitment in the fall.
"We'll be meeting soon to discuss possible problems with rush," he said.McCullough said that she hopes to meet with all the executive boards of Columbia fraternities to talk about the fire code issues."
Administration views underage drinking like this crazy epidemic thing," Beaulac said. "And of all the other issues that are facing Columbia is seems like it should be pretty low priority. But the frats are an easy target.
"Other fraternities are also feeling the pinch. Due to an incident that occurred at a AEPi party, the fraternity's party schedule was cancelled until further administrative notice, according to members. A member of AEPi who wished to remain anonymous said the frat and administration have not made any decisions on whether or not they will be able to resume parties next year."
All of these houses are built to be not only residential but social," said Magdaleno, who said he is not optimistic about the future of campus greek life. "If they're limited in what the building code prescribes for safety, they're not able to function as the social space that they should be."