News | Administration

Administrators say brownstone selection process was fair

  • NEW HOMES | Administrators behind the brownstone selection process said that they factored in the ALPHA Standards into their review, but that it was not the only criterion for Greek organizations.

The administrators behind the brownstone review committee said Wednesday that they were confident the selection process was fair and that the buildings’ new occupants will be held to the standards of residents of the coveted 114th Street properties.

While Pi Kappa Alpha and Alpha Epsilon Pi didn’t get their old houses back, they were named finalists in the brownstone review process partly because of their strong ALPHA Standards scores, Dean of Community Development and Multicultural Affairs Terry Martinez said in an interview Wednesday.

In a widely distributed email, former AEPi president Matthew Renick, GS/JTS ’13, blasted administrators Tuesday for awarding three 114th Street brownstones to Alpha Chi Omega, Lambda Phi Epsilon, and Q House. Renick argued that AEPi and Pi Kappa Alpha deserved the brownstones back, in part because they had received five of five stars on their ALPHA Standards—a metric, he said, that administrators had said would be the primary standard for reviewing Greek applicants.

But while Renick argued that the committee did not take the ALPHA Standards seriously, Martinez, who chaired the committee, said that Pike and AEPi’s “impressive” results were one reason they were named finalists. And Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger, who made the final brownstone decisions after meeting extensively with the committee, said that the ALPHA Standards were always meant to be just “one component” of the discussion.

“Fraternities and sororities were never told that that’s how the decision was going to be made,” Shollenberger said. “It’s like any process—if they are already recognized organizations within the community, we look at their standards within the community.”

Martinez said that committee members did not bring up the topic of the drug bust, the December 2010 raid on the three brownstones in which several of their members were arrested for selling drugs.

Shollenberger and Martinez said that a guidelines system with some similarities to the ALPHA Standards will be used for Q House, the one non-Greek organization selected for brownstone occupancy last week, but that Q House won’t have to fulfill requirements that are specific to Greek organizations.

“We’ve been very clear that those houses are a privilege,” Shollenberger said. “They need to be following policies and procedure that we put forth. They need to follow community standards.”

There is already an evaluative process every three years for all special interest communities, but Martinez said that she would like to make the evaluation annual. Additionally, Shollenberger said that Q House will be subject to the terms of use governing all brownstones. “There is a manual that outlines particular rules for brownstones—about how there’s no access to roofs, and how to care for common spaces and furniture … all of the things, not just Greek-specific,” he said.

Q House will work with an adviser and be subject to event reviews like fraternities and sororities. There will also be an RA assigned to the space, Shollenberger said.

The two East Campus townhouses occupied by Lambda and AXO will be opened for application by other Greek organizations next year, while Q House’s vacated Ruggles suite will enter general selection. Shollenberger said that he is also looking to hire someone who would oversee annual reviews of the special interest communities, three of which will occupy the former convent brownstones that are being converted into undergraduate housing on West 113th Street.

The brownstone decision left some students displeased. The Bwog post announcing the winners was flooded with hostile comments toward the Greek and queer communities, which Shollenberger said he was dismayed to read.

“I was disappointed by comments about the bashing of fraternities, sororities, and Greek life. It’s an important co-curricular activity for students,” he said. “I was also concerned regarding some of the homophobic comments regarding the Q House.”

For AXO, the only Panhellenic sorority that has not had a brownstone, the announcement of a new home comes with a drawback: Only two Barnard students will be allowed to live in the brownstone, even though 51 of the 88 sorority’s members—nearly 60 percent—are Barnard students, and the three other Panhellenic sororities—Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Sigma Delta Tau—are allowed to house five Barnard students.

Martinez said that the housing agreement with Barnard allows AXO only two Barnard residents, and that administrators would honor that agreement.

“There has been no discussion to change that, despite it being a very Barnard-heavy sorority,” Martinez said. “Barnard students aren’t eligible because Columbia and SEAS students are very much interested and we don’t want to take away the opportunity for that.”

Sammy Roth contributed reporting.

yasmin.gagne@columbiaspectator.com

A previous version of this article stated that AXO and Lambda's East Campus townhouses will be opened to special interest communities next year. Spectator regrets the error.

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Anonymous posted on

Why won't Shollenberger and Martinez provide their reasons for choosing AXO, Q house, and Lambda Phi Epsilon? They keep saying the process was fair and transparent, but if that's so, why won't they tell us their rationale?

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Anonymous posted on

Shame on Shollenberger for playing on fear of homophobia to distract the community from brazen OMA astroturfing in regards to Q House and IRC. I don't recall anyone posting anti-gay comments on that article, or elsewhere at Columbia (sans Ahmadinejad).

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Anonymous posted on

Wait. 51 out of 88 are Barnard. How many more are GS/JTS students who can't live in the house?

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Anonymous posted on

@Anonymous... Are you reading the blog comments at all? Shollenberger isn't making things up. The comments in the article announcing the decision were disgustingly homophobic. And @ET, they don't have a huge GS/JTS population, but even if they did, contractually members of greek life are required to fill a vacant space in a brownstone if asked to. So they shouldn't have trouble filling the space at all.

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Anonymous posted on

By these Deans' logic, drug dealers considered as possible tenants = fair. Glorious this Columbia education is.

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