Students respond to Greek lease changes

In late November, Carnegie Mellon Housing Services finalized the proposed changes in Greek housing’s 2017–18 lease. Some major proposed changes include discontinuing the collection of non-rent fees through the university sign over forms, restricting Greek organizations from subletting to boarders over the summer, and increasing the rent of Greek Quad housing by 5 percent in the next three years. Individual Greek organizations and Greek Life representatives are still debating some details of this new contract; if consensus is reached, the new lease will become effective on July 1, 2017.

In the initial proposal, Housing Services suggested that the university reserves the right to refund students who move out of Greek housing to other non-Greek affiliated on campus housing for approved reasons. Carnegie Mellon Greek organizations, however, were not in favor of this change. This is because having a vacancy in a Greek house would mean that the rest of the residents of that house would have to pay extra to make up for the person or people that left.

Though the proposed policy would allow Greek organizations to “pull in” other students currently living in on campus housing, this change would place more pressure on the organizations and lead to more disadvantage. Stephanie Kane, president of Alpha Chi Omega and a senior in the School of Drama states that “[this policy] would teach students not to honor contracts.” This proposed policy is no longer part of the new lease proposed by Housing Services because of the opposition it met.

The students’ responses to other proposed changes are fairly neutral. Rebecca Ahmad, the Vice President of Communication and Finance of Carnegie Mellon Panhellenic and junior psychology and statistics double major, said that students in Greek Life were not overly concerned with these new changes. “Overall, the biggest concern for people [in Greek organizations] is how to get people to fill the house. People are worried about how the prices have been increasing, and [Greek housing] might become less affordable,” Ahmad said.

Greek housing has always been the most affordable option for on-campus housing, but the projected five percent increase in rent over the three years and possible increase in other fees and expenses might counter this attractive aspect of Greek Life. Ahmad also said that this increase was likely a result of the million-dollar Greek housing debt, and Greek housing residents were frustrated because this debt falls solely on the Greek residents instead of the entire on-campus population.

Tom Cooley, the director of Housing Services, anticipated that the new policy regarding the sign-over form would be met with frustration among Greek organizations. This is because all the fraternities and all but one sorority are currently using the sign-over form to charge fees and other expenses on top of rent. However, according to students’ responses, using a third party system for transactions might be beneficial and more effective for Greek organizations. Alpha Chi Omega, the only sorority that does not currently use the sign-over form to charge expenses other than rent, has been using Billhighway to charge fees other than rent and meal plan for years. “[Billhighway] is a nationally approved company that we’re allowed to charge our sisters on,” said Kane, “and [changing the sign-over form policy] would just mean we have to move a few charges from the student account to Billhighway.” In addition to these benefits, Housing Services also promised to help individual chapters find third party companies and provide training for chapter leaders to get used to the new systems.

The new policy that prevents boarders to sublet and live in the Greek houses could cause some financial difficulties for some Greek organizations, since a lot of Greek organizations view boarders as a means to raise revenue. However, Kane didn’t think that forbidding boarders in Greek housing would have a big impact on Alpha Chi Omega.

“We usually have a lot of sisters who would stay in the house over the summer because they take classes at Carnegie Mellon or they have internships in Pittsburgh,” remarked Kane, “it’s not really a problem for us since we usually don’t allow boarders to live in the house over the summer.” The main concern Housing Services had regarding boarders was that boarders are not covered under insurance, and are difficult to manage for individual Greek organizations.

In general, students’ responses to the new lease changes are optimistic as they believe that these changes will likely improve the way Greek organizations are run.