Friday, April 16, 2010

Two Campuses Support Greek Housing Bill

Greek students to support housing bill

By Alex Holmquist

Two University of Minnesota students will fly to Washington, D.C., on Friday to support the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act of 2009, a bill that would allow private donors to make tax-deductible donations to nonprofit student housing entities.

Under the current tax code, colleges and universities can receive tax-deductible donations to build and maintain student housing, while nonprofit student housing entities, such as sororities and fraternities, cannot.

“It kind of levels the playing field with University housing,” said Alex Tenenbaum, president of Sigma Chi Fraternity, who will lobby in support of the bill.

Sarah Shook, a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority and president-elect of the Minnesota Student Association, will join Tenenbaum in Washington, D.C.

Shook and Tenenbaum agree that the bill would benefit sororities and fraternities in several ways.

“It opens up options for private donors who are currently restricted from making tax-deductible donations,” Shook said.

Tenenbaum said he thinks the bill would encourage greek alumni to make donations to sororities and fraternities, which would allow for some desperately needed repairs.

The Sigma Chi house is currently in need of some of these major repairs, including a leak in its porch that is causing water to accumulate in the foundation.

“It’s a bill that makes sense because there’s a need there,” Tenenbaum said. “It’s going to be an expensive renovation and they have to do it,” he added.

Shook said donations generated by the bill’s passage may also help sororities and fraternities install additional safety equipment in their houses.

Currently, only four of the University’s 11 sorority houses have fire sprinkler systems, and none of the University’s fraternity houses have them.

“Guaranteeing that all student housing is safe benefits both our campus and our community,” Shook said.

Missy Gettel, chairwoman of the MSA facilities, housing and transit committee, said the bill will also benefit other nonprofit student housing entities, such as student cooperatives.

“It’s a way to reduce the cost of living for students in nonprofit-type housing,” Gettel said.

© 2010 Minnesota Daily

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Daily Bruin
University of California, Los Angeles
April 15, 2010
http://www.dailybruin.com/articles/2010/4/15/act-supports-greek-housing/

Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act would support Greek housing maintenance

By Samantha Masunaga

After living in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house for two years, Michael Phillips noticed that modern retrofitting of Greek housing was behind the times.

This observation is no surprise, given that the houses were built in the 1930s, prior to the development of fire safety codes, according to Troy Bartels, UCLA Greek adviser.

As a result, only three of the 20 fraternity houses at UCLA are fitted with fire safety sprinkler systems, according to the fourth-year economics and international development studies student.

With this in mind, Phillips and fellow AEPi member and third-year global studies student Jason Youdeem are campaigning for support for the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act of 2009.

If passed, the act would allow tax-deductible donations to go toward the building or maintenance of not-for-profit student housing, including fraternities, sororities and cooperative dwellings, according to the act’s Web site. As tax laws currently stand, only colleges and universities can use charitable contributions for such retrofitting.

While similar bills have been proposed in the past, all have failed based on lack of support within Congress, Phillips said.

This year, he said he hopes to increase awareness of the bill’s benefits, especially at UCLA, where a resolution to support the act passed unanimously at Tuesday’s Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting.

He emphasized that not-for-profit student housing was an alternative and cheaper option for students who do not live in university-owned dwellings and said it would benefit students in the future.

Approximately 2,200 students live in not-for-profit student housing, 1,500 of whom live in Greek houses, Bartels said.

“We’ve seen how fraternity housing is and that it needs a lot of work,” Phillips said.

While Bartels and fellow Greek adviser Mande Adams said the chapter houses at UCLA are not unsafe, they said the proceeds from charitable donations would put such facilities on the same level of upkeep as those owned by the university.

Since these renovations are expensive to incorporate, Adams said the bill would provide an advantage for alumni to donate to their chapter, emphasizing that Greeks pride themselves on their chapter houses and want to ensure the upkeep of the buildings.

In fact, alumni are the most frequent donors to chapters, Youdeem said, thus justifying their involvement with the act.

To raise awareness, Phillips and Youdeem have created a Facebook group with an online petition and also sent an e-mail about the bill through the UCLA fraternity and sorority list-serv.

Thus far, Youdeem said the student response has been positive, as several individuals have changed their Facebook statuses to promote the act.

“People are excited and hopeful that ... future members of their houses will have housing that’s safe and affordable,” he said.

Outside the confines of Westwood, the act is garnering national support, which is evident by the North-American Interfraternity Council’s congressional visit to lobby lawmakers planned for this weekend, of which Phillips will be a part.

Furthermore, Rep. Henry Waxman of California’s 30th District, which includes UCLA, recently became a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Fraternities and sororities provide affordable housing alternatives to hundreds of UCLA students – in addition to important opportunities for community service and personal growth,” he said. “This will help expand student choices for affordable, modern and safe housing options at UCLA and at college campuses across our country.”

Copyright 2010 The Daily Bruin.