Housing Services clarifies new changes to Greek housing lease

Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/ Credit: Matthew McGehee/

During the past two weeks, housing services has proposed several changes for Greek Housing’s 2017–2018 lease. Tom Cooley, director of Housing Services at Carnegie Mellon presented these proposals at two forums to gauge reactions from the Greek organizations to these new changes. The Tartan interviewed Cooley to get more information on what led to many of these changes.

One major change made in this new lease deals with the current financial sign over form for Greek housing. The financial sign over form is a document that students who join Greek organizations must sign in order for the organization to charge them for fees. Under the current system, Greek organizations have the option to bill students for any kind of Greek-related fees through this sign over form, which allows Greek organizations to withdraw money from individual students’ university accounts. All but one of the Greek organizations on campus currently use the sign over form to charge students for chapter dues.

While this system guarantees that the Greek organizations will always receive the money they charge, it also puts extra responsibility on Housing Services to keep track of the money. “We are managing being an accountant for their fees,” Cooley remarked, “and there’s a lot of risks from the university’s standpoint.” The new lease specifies that only rent and rent-based parlor fees from non-residential members of the Greek organizations will be collected through Housing Services and billed from student account; it requires all Greek organizations to bill chapter fees independently, possibly through a third-party transaction.

In order to help the fraternities and sororities adapt to this change, Housing Services will “[have] more intentional conversations with these organizations about how to make this change, and work with organizations on making this shift,” Cooley said.

The largest controversy among Greek communities has to do with the topic of receiving refunds when students change their residence. In situations where a member of a Greek organization decides to move out of their chapter housing, the current lease gives individual chapters the freedom to choose how much the individual will be charged throughout the rest of the leasing period when the student is no longer living in the house.

Initially, Housing Services proposed to change this policy because it is inconsistent with other on campus housing policies. Students who move out of other on-campus residences for approved reasons, unlike those in Greek housing, receive a refund from the university, while Greek residents are not guaranteed a refund when they withdraw. The current practice allows Greek organizations to manage and prevent extra financial burden due to losing residents. Requiring Greek organizations to refund individuals could lead to an increase in the amount every individual has to pay.

After negotiating and communicating with representatives from Greek life organizations, Housing Services agreed not to change this current practice. “We decided to keep the status quo,” said Cooley, “the house manager or the treasurer has the ability to decide whether they would refund or not refund the students.”

Rules regarding boarders in Greek housing were restated and emphasized in the new contract. Boarders, the non-Greek members who reside in Greek houses, will no longer be allowed due to laws regarding subletting and their lack of housing insurance. In the past, Greek organizations have allowed boarders to sublet at chapter houses during the summer to generate revenues for their chapters.

Housing Services now also has the right to close a Greek house over the summer for renovations or cleaning with prior notice, given that Greek houses generally do not reach the minimum standard of cleanliness.

The overall rate increase of all Greek Quad housings will be 5.5 percent, which is lower than this rate has been in the past three years. The rent at Margaret Morrison Greek houses will decrease by 15 percent to normalize the existing inequity in rent.

All changes for the new lease are final and complete with the exception of a few details regarding housing insurance, which the university legal team is still in the process of drafting. The new lease will be complete by next week, and will be presented to all Greek organizations on campus to sign. The new lease will become effective on July 1, 2017.