Costs complicate development of Greek Row

Bringing Greek housing to campus is not a new discussion at Mason. According to an April 9 panel on the topic, both administration and students have had numerous talks about how to bring fraternity and sorority housing options to campus.

[On File: Everything you need to know about Greek Housing at Mason]

“The talk for Greek housing has been going on for probably 40 years here,” an alumnus said at the event.

The panel, organized by Mason Student Government, was meant to bring administrators and students together to better understand the issues surrounding development of a Greek Row.

Panelists, which included Mason officials who work in housing and the Interfraternity Council, stressed that there were numerous challenges to providing housing for Greek groups.

“We’re in a very expensive part of the country,” said Todd Rose, associate dean of University Life. “We don’t have enough housing for all the people who need it. There are a lot of barriers in Northern Virginia that aren’t present in other parts of the country.”

Apart from some of the highest property costs in the nation, funding for Greek housing would have to include maintenance and other upkeep costs.

Additionally, some chapters are required by their national organizations to have full-time staff reside in their houses.

Another complication was ensuring that each house could be filled every year. If Mason were to invest in the project, the university would take a financial hit whenever the houses weren’t fully occupied.

“It’s really hard to get those 15 or 20 people to commit to [moving in],” said Phil McDaniel, associate director for Fraternity & Sorority Life. “Our community wasn’t at the place to truly have those conversations.”

Another concern is the general demand for housing at Mason. By next year, the university will house 6,400 students on the Fairfax campus. According to a recent study, the demand for housing at Mason is expected to increase 50 percent over the next ten years as more non-local students enroll.

“Mason has been a continuously growing and changing place,” Jana Hurley, assistant vice president of University Life, said last month. “At least for the seven years that I’ve been here, the demand for housing has exceeded the available supply.”

While Mason tries to provide housing for a growing undergraduate population, there are concerns about the most efficient use of a finite amount of space.

“The entirety of this community is extremely concerned with how to maximize the property available,” Hurley said. “Folks have some concerns with using that space for a higher density need.”

As Mason looks to meet demand in the near future, it’s more difficult to invest in expensive housing that only serves a special cohort of students.

“[The university] will meet the undergraduate demand for housing as fully as possible,” Hurley said when asked about the Mason’s housing priorities.

Students were eager to know specific requirements and costs of building Greek housing, but panelists repeated that it depended on many different factors, including the size and number of houses, as well as the general planning process. Some panel members said that providing houses for every Greek organization at Mason could easily cost millions of dollars.

McDaniel said that Mason was not alone is facing these challenges.

“Universities aren’t building Greek housing,” McDaniel said. “If it is being built on campus it is being funded by national organizations.”

One student stressed concern that Mason’s administration was more concerned with serving future students than it was with students who are already here.

Panel members responded that even if this project were to begin now, it would take years before something physical was ever realized.

“This is a very future, long-term thing and it takes a while to get it right it,” McDaniel said.

In response to last week’s Greek housing forum, students in the Johnson Center voiced their opinions on whether fraternities and sororities should have on-campus housing. The issue has been one of the focal points in the debate over Mason’s spirit of community, with some saying a Greek Row could help bring a strong sense of identity and others criticizing the idea as a waste of school funds.