Last Friday, Dean Kevin Shollenberger announced that the three brownstones previously occupied by Psi Upsilon, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Alpha Epsilon Pi would be given to Q House, Alpha Chi Omega, and Lambda Phi Epsilon. The announcement ends a long and very public selection process, a process that provoked a dialogue on the brownstones’ importance to campus groups and the potential ways for them to contribute to this community. Regardless of one’s opinions on the decision, this process has also provoked further questions about the true responsibilities of brownstone occupants and the degree to which these responsibilities should be regulated by the University.
In the past, most groups with brownstones have retained them for years and only lost them because of major rule violations. Dean Shollenberger’s email on Friday seems to indicate that this won’t be the case for these three groups—according to the email, the housing contracts are offered "for the upcoming year." We are in favor of this decision, as it prevents any group from having a perpetual claim on the brownstones. But we’re also in favor of extending the principle: All brownstone groups should be subject to review on a regular basis. Conducting a review would be a fair way to ensure that such spaces are used in ways that benefit students.
Having full access to a brownstone, especially at a school so short on space for student activities, shouldn’t be a right that is “won” once and re-evaluated only in moments of serious policy violations. While putting together a winning proposal was certainly no small feat, the real work for AXO, Lambda, and Q House lies in their future planning and not in their past accomplishments. The three will rightly be subject to close scrutiny over the next few semesters, and we hope they will live up to their promises to support both their own communities and the general student body. Routine reviews of these three organizations ought to become a model, increasing the accountability of all groups residing in current and future brownstones in order to ensure they are living up to the community’s expectations.
Routine reviews also, no doubt, mean that ownership of brownstones may become much more fluid, with groups cycling in and out based on whether or not they can live up to the community’s expectations. Such a process would allow the community to come together to hammer out clear guidelines for groups living in brownstones (something that has been noticeably absent from this committee’s public record). A regularly scheduled, structured review with an evaluation of the group’s past actions would encourage other groups to join in and ensure that all Columbians have the opportunity to benefit from the communities on 114th Street.
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