Foolish Games

Cole Delaney

We live in a broken home. The sounds of breaking bottles and primal screams belie its tranquil aura. Within, an intoxicated father yells at an emotionally unbalanced mother while the children secretly peer into the melee from atop the stairs, unable to comprehend the full extent of the controversy. As is always the case, the mother and father are oblivious to the trauma they are causing. What follows is the tear-stained crayon drawing that will hopefully cause them to wake up and become mature adults. Warch and the frats are currently too busy going at each others’ throats to recognize how Formal Group Housing is harming the overall interests of the student body. It is time for them to take notice.

Formal Group Housing is an affront to student body — Greek and independent alike. Unfortunately, those most opposed to this administrative policy have seriously blundered in their opposition to it. Compounding this problem is the general apathy of the student body to the policy because it is unclear, complicated, and directly affects only a handful.

Until now, only the Fraternity Alliance has opposed FGH, and for all the wrong reasons. Furthermore, its campaign has distinguished itself only by the level of selfishness which motivates it. What I hope to do here, and in future columns, is to examine the tragic history, ideological assumptions, and practical effects of FGH on the student body.

Here are my principles, arranged in order of importance:

1) Prior agreements should be honored or else other arrangements made that are acceptable to all parties;

2) No organization should have a permanent claim to any campus residence;

3) The students body, through LUCC, should decide how campus housing is allocated;

If the administration or the Alliance took the time to find out, they would discover most students hold similar values. In the 1940s, six fraternities privately owned off-campus housing nearby. The university, wanting to create a more residential campus, offered to buy their houses and give of each them an indefinite lease to one on-campus building. They all agreed and the university constructed the quadrangle.

These arrangements were put into contract form and signed by president George Banta Jr. on behalf of the Board of Trustees. Last year, the university finally ended this arrangement, prompting a group of Fraternity alumna (the “Fraternity Alliance”) to file suit.

For argument’s sake, let’s just assume (as the administration claims) that these arrangements are not legally binding. Bickering over the contract’s legality misses the point. Even if the university broke no law by ending the fraternities’ permanent claim to housing, it –at the very least– broke its word.

For sometime, students have suspected Warch has been taking liberties with the truth. His cryptic memo (in response to the lawsuit) distributed first term with carpet bomb-like precision was heavy on style and light on substance. A playground bully with an equivalently large secretarial staff, budget, vocabulary, and Xerox copier could have done better.

Warch’s goal of equity in housing is laudable; his methods are not. The student body deserves to decide, through LUCC, how student housing is allocated. Unfortunately, previous administrations made promises and arrangements with the fraternities that bound the university morally, if not legally, to guarantee them housing.

The ability for Lawrence to honor its commitments, legal or otherwise, when it is not convenient to do so tells us a great deal about its credibility. When President Warch makes claims and generates arguments of various kinds, he is giving us glimpses of his integrity, and of the level of respect he has for those he is addressing and attempting to influence. By resorting to propaganda and obfuscation, Warch is placing a calculated bet on the obtuseness of Lawrence’s students, staff, and faculty. More importantly, it provides an instructive lesson about our own susceptibility to lies and distortion in the form of spin. For Warch to pretend that the University has done nothing wrong is a blatant lie.

Fraternities are an integral component of student life at Lawrence. Students recognize this fact. But the Alliance, for its part, has refused to admit that the old arrangements have been harmful to the student body. Students want housing distributed fairly and equability. This principle is embedded in the LUCC housing legislation forged by students for students. What does the most harm to the positive image of the fraternities is their continued insistence upon special treatment. The fraternities would do well to follow the example set by the Phi Kappa Taus who have abandoned the Alliance and embraced the principle of equality in housing.

LUCC could easily modify its housing legislation to include a mechanism like FGH. which rewards student organizations whose principles, membership, and philanthropy merit long-term housing. Such an approach would be just as fair and equitable, but not nearly as asinine. It strikes me that the simple solution to this problem is for students to simply trust each other. If the fraternities’ rhetoric is true, then they should have no problem trusting their peers to give them the housing they deserve. Anything short of this is a slap in the face to LUCC and the student body.

Most importantly, however, Formal Group Housing is only a year old and it is already spiraling out of control. In the next issue of The Lawrentian, I will explore the most important problems inherent in the administration’s ill-conceived policy that the Alliance could care less about and the administration would prefer never be mentioned.

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