News | Student Life

13 groups apply for 114th Street brownstones

This story was updated in print and online 10/15/12, to include comment from several of the groups.

Thirteen student groups have applied for three 114th Street brownstones, including the Student Wellness Project, a new fraternity, and the three fraternities that used to occupy the buildings, a Student Affairs spokesperson told Spectator on Friday.

The brownstones used to belong to Alpha Epsilon Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Psi Upsilon, but the University kicked them out in March 2011 after several of their members were arrested for selling drugs.

While all three fraternities are trying to get their former brownstones back, they’ll face tough competition from 10 additional groups, including four other Greek organizations. Among the applicants are Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a new fraternity that has formed a colony at Columbia; the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta, which has been waiting to get a brownstone since 2005, when the University reinstated its charter; the sorority Alpha Chi Omega, which has been looking for a brownstone since the 1990s; and the Asian-American interest fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon.

These organizations will be up against several non-Greek groups, including the Student Wellness Project, an organization that formed last fall after a student suicide and has worked to improve mental health on campus. The other applicants are the Application Development Initiative, Music House, Q House, Writers House, and Manhattan House, a joint entry by several Native American groups.

Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger told Spectator earlier this month that the committee would favor groups that can impact student life across campus.

“Part of what they’re going to look for is, what’s the value added to their organization to have a residential space?” Shollenberger said. “What could they do with that space that they couldn’t do by meeting or reserving a room in Lerner?”

Student Wellness Project founder Wilfred Chan, CC ’13, said that a brownstone would help the group hold events, discussions about wellness, yoga classes, and potlucks.

“Stuff like that would be able to be hosted in an intimate housing-type setting, where you don’t have to get kicked out after one hour because someone else has space reserved,” Chan said. “That’s really the goal—to create a sort of home.”

“One of the particular challenges is it’s sometimes tough to find private, comfortable spaces where students can create an honest and supportive dialogue about wellness,” he added. “We have events that sometimes respond to tragedies on campus, or topics that may be sensitive or difficult, so that’s one of the rationales.”

Andrew Hitti, CC ’13 and president of the Application Development Initiative, said that while his group hasn’t had problems finding space, a brownstone could change the tenor and frequency of its programming.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to have consistency that allows people to be sure that they’re going to the right space,” Hitti said. “And we hold a lot of events at varying times, and having a committed space that we would be able to schedule ourselves would make things a lot easier.”

Native American Council co-chair Fantasia Painter, CC ’13, said that the Manhattan House would provide a home for Native Americans, noting in an email that “a college campus is not culturally conducive to many of our Nations way of life.”

“There has been a surge in the admitted Native Americans here at Columbia in recent years,” Painter said. “Because of that there is a critical need for a set space for that population; a space that will be culturally conducive to matriculation and retention.”

Representatives for the other groups could not be reached for comment by press time.

The Student Affairs spokesperson, Katherine Cutler, also said that Daniel O’Leary, SEAS ’14, had decided to resign from the Brownstone Review Committee. O’Leary is a founding member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“I have decided to step down because an organization that I have been affiliated with has applied for a brownstone,” O’Leary said, according to Cutler. “I did not want my participation to cause any appearance of bias towards the decision making process or any question as to the integrity of the committee.”

Still, when it comes to the application process, the Greek organizations might have an edge. The Brownstone Review Committee is now made up of four administrators and six students—four of whom are members of Greek organizations.

Shollenberger said that administrators made a deliberate decision to include several members of the Greek community on the committee.

“We did purposely ask students who were part of Greek life because I wanted to honor that, historically, those brownstones have gone to Greek organizations,” Shollenberger said. “While at the same time, I wanted to make sure the applications were open to any special interest group.”

Painter, though, took issue with the committee’s composition.

“I wish the committee better reflected the undergraduate population as a whole,” she said in an email. “I think this lack of balance puts the Manhattan House, as a non-greek applicant, at a disadvantage.”

The committee will choose finalists and invite them to make presentations. It was originally expected to choose the three winners by Nov. 9, but Cutler said that it decided to extend its decision deadline to Nov. 30.

Emily Neil contributed reporting.

news@columbiaspectator.com

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Phi Gamma Delta has been waiting for a brownstone for a decade. Spectator regrets the error.

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Anonymous posted on

"Manhattan House by NAC?" Huh?

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

Thanks for the feedback. We've updated above: "Manhattan House, a joint entry by several Native American groups."

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Anonymous posted on

Please do fix the "several" matter. Although the language has been used by other publications, I think is misleading or at least needlessly imprecise; indeed, no more than two students from any fraternity were involved from any one organization. Psi U which had two students involved in the busts only had one of those students on its housing roster (the other was living in EC far from any potential oversight). And while this may seem like a petty criticism, and may express no malicious intent on the part of the author, I believe it plays into a unfortunate pattern of exaggerating the incident in the media which affects innocent alums/members of these organizations. Just imagine for one second that you are an alum of these fraternities, or that you are a student associated with these groups who is looking at the job market. This is damaging to reputations and possibly careers! And it is certainly prejudicial to the efforts of fraternities seeking readmission.

I think it's a reasonable point: the aggregation of "one or two" students into "several" and of individual drug deals into a single total figure ("12,000") exaggerates the scale of the interactions.

Condition one: a qualified job applicant was a member of an organization wherein "several" individuals sold upwards of $10,000 in drugs in several transactions to undercover police.

Condition two: a qualified job applicant was a member of an organization where a single individual sold drugs valued between $1-2000 to an undercover cop in a single transaction.

Can you see how this matters to some people?

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Anonymous posted on

Edit: Strikethrough "from any one organization." I should proofread when asking for edits :(

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Anonymous posted on

This article is exceptionally factually accurate. There was only one member of AEPi accused of selling drugs (not several), and the most in any of the fraternities was two. It also fails to mention how drugs were being sold out of the IRC, which, shockingly, was able to keep its brownstone without any punishments. In addition, the assertion that Phi Gamma Delta has been waiting for a house for over a decade is misleading; they lost their house 10 years ago for essentially destroying it. You can still see it on 114th Street.

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Anonymous posted on

*inaccurate

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Anonymous posted on

Phi Gamma Delta did not lose their house as you said because they owned it. It was sold to Columbia following their leaving the school.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

Thanks for the feedback. We've made a correction in re: Phi Gamma Delta above.

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anon posted on

Keep the brownstones in the open lottery for everyone.

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Anonymous posted on

Why were only the SIC's asked for comments? What about the other groups?

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Anonymous posted on

I'm a fan of wellness and I wouldn't be opposed to see swp get a brownstone. The bias in this article in savor of swp and in spec coverage in general is noticeable. "Applicants include fraternities, swp, and others."

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Anonymous posted on

How about some critical thinking about a university
philosophy that presumes an all-Asian organization or a vegan
collective to be a contribution to cultural diversity on campus, while discounting the
social contribution of a group comprised by a mixture of
white/asian/black/hispanic/jewish/foreign exchange kids that regularly
facilitates large-scale social events open to the entire campus? The
mental gymnastics at work there... nothing short of genius; and the
astounding doublespeak in the discussion of positive "community impact"
when they're really talking about conferring preference to organizations
that contribute to (very worthy) national causes in relation to
organizations which have historical standing/utility to the actual
Columbia community is beyond absurd. Don't even get me started on
the mind-boggling arrogance of including needy and the student body in
one breath as "the community," when campus is literally gated from the
rest of Morningside, New York, because in reality this beloved "community" is fissured by some of the starkest income
disparities recorded in the United states.

see:
http://www.columbiaspectator.c...

By the way, you'd have to comically redefine the word "community" to say cloistered sororities, which do not ever open their doors to public events or parties, have any place in the running.

p.s. Who the hell cares about undergraduate philanthropy anyway? This is a naked attempt to levy good PR for the University, and nobody gives a shit about efficacy. Columbia students are busy as hell, do we really expect them to make substantial contributions to the community? I don't. They're ambitious. They're busy. They're pursuing a degree that costs upwards of $200,000. Shall we pretend that they're selfless, when they could well save 3/4 of that money by going to a state school and donate the balance of the difference to say... fully fund a scholarship for THREE OTHER STUDENTS? If the university wants to make an impact on the community, it should solicit donations from Billionaire alums or require deans seeking tenure to donate their time/money.

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