Last week’s meeting between university and fraternity representatives appears to have been only the first of many steps toward resolving fraternity matters at Lawrence.
At the administration’s invitation, the fraternity representatives agreed to meet with Lawrence representatives on April 25 to discuss the role of the fraternity system at Lawrence. President Warch said, though no decision has been reached, that the university hopes to discuss the matter again in the near future.
“There were strong positions taken by those in attendance, but, by the conclusion of the meeting, people were prepared to talk further,” said Warch.
Warch said the meeting was generated by three specific elements, including the report produced by the Task Force on Residence Life, the Board of Trustees’ response to that report, and the recent Formal Group Housing proposal. The Formal Group Housing proposal, generated by the task force recommendations and the board’s considerations on those recommendations, suggests opening the quad to all student groups in order to provide equitable housing.
There has also been discussion about the placement of a new union, with Sasaki Associates proposing a site that requires tearing down two fraternity houses and Hulbert House.
When asked if the fraternities planned on suing the school, Warch said, “That topic never came up.”
The current difficulties about the quadrangle result from differing interpretations of the contract between Lawrence and the fraternities regarding the ownership of the fraternity buildings. The original purpose of the quad was, according to former Lawrence president Dr. Henry W. Wriston, to provide facilities for fraternity men that were adequate and located on campus (prior housing was non-centralized). A document prepared in 1970 by Barton C. White, then assistant to the dean of student affairs, stated that Wriston had “reached the logical conclusion that if fraternities were to be welcomed at Lawrence, they should be conducted in such a manner as to make a constructive contribution to its educational objective and social program.”
The cost of the five buildings was $237,195 with the land an additional $33, 866. Money for the project was raised by the university, and the total cost of the buildings plus equipment provided by Lawrence was approximately $248,000 ($49,600 per house). Of this amount, $125,000 was borrowed from the Lawrence endowment fund and amortized from rents in a 31-year period at three percent interest.
The balance of construction was provided by gifts and fraternity equities. Each fraternity’s real estate and assets were liquidated and the cash applied to the quadrangle project. The fraternities also conveyed all of their assets over to Lawrence before moving into the quad in spring of 1941. Lawrence agreed to collect room rent from each occupant as though he were living in any other residence hall. This income paid all operating expenses including insurance, interest, amortization, maintenance, and repairs.
The 1941 contract, and subsequent changes, has not been released to the Lawrentian at this time.
Further discussion on the quad was planned for the annual spring Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, May 3. Trustees present at the April 25 meeting included attorneys Jeffrey Riester, William Hochkammer Jr., and Pricilla Weaver. After commentary from the representatives and review by the board, decisions will be made as to a future course of action. Warch plans on working in cooperation with the fraternities.
“I don’t think this is a meeting that can be characterized as not having gone well,” said Warch. “I think we have an understanding and we hope to meet again in a week, or within a month.”
This document was sent to The Lawrentian by John Hein, an attorney with von Briesen, Purtell, and Roper, S.C., and legal representative for the fraternities Beta Theta Pi, Delta Tau Delta, Phi Delta Theta, and Sigma Phi Epsilon. The document refers to the “position of fraternities” on the future of the fraternity system at Lawrence, and in particular, the fraternity quadrangle.
POSITION OF FRATERNITIES
1. We welcome the opportunity to exchange views and understand each others’ thinking.
2. We also embrace Lawrence University as our alma mater and underscore our dedication to Lawrence University.
3. We have operated under a partnership with Lawrence University, especially since 1941, reinforced in 1985. This has fostered a long-standing sense of cooperation and partnership.
4. We recognize, as has the Task Force report, that the fraternities were granted a sense of permanence, a traditional home at Lawrence University. Giving this up without an alternative is a serious concern.
5. A sense of place is critical to continuing our 150 year citizenship at Lawrence University.
6. We, therefore, look forward to adapting the current model at Lawrence University that provides the fraternities with assured housing continuity in the future.
7. We need to hear what the Board of Trustees proposes in terms of protecting our housing continuity based on past partnership agreements beyond what we have been told thus far in terms of housing plans and in view now of understanding our expressed concern.