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Administration retreats over police access to Greek housing

USF has backed down from the ultimatum it gave Greek Village fraternities and sororities that would have forced them to sign a lease amendment that would allow University Police to patrol common areas inside houses in the Village.

After Residence Services told Greek organizations in early May that they had until Aug. 14 to sign the amendment or receive 18 months’ notice to leave the Village, the University softened its approach. The change in tack comes after some Greek groups signaled their intent to challenge the measure in courts and an ACLU regional director questioned the amendment’s constitutionality.

A meeting due to be held today between Residence Services and the seven Greek groups that had not signed the revised amendment was cancelled Monday. Kofi Glover, interim vice president of Student Affairs, said the University is instead arranging a meeting with both groups and a USF lawyer to discuss the problems that led to Residence Services drafting the amendment, including concerns over alcohol consumption in fraternities.

“Nobody will be kicked out of their Greek House for not signing,” Glover said. “We’re trying to arrange a meeting including the attorneys for the Greek housing to discuss the issues that have led to the amendment to see how we can resolve those issues without resorting to the amendment or a threat to eject anybody from Greek housing.”

After facing the prospect of eviction, Mitchell Feldman, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s housing corporation, said he welcomed the USF’s new approach.

“We’re happy we’re getting some response from the University and we’re going to come to the table and open the lines of communication to address the issues on both sides of the table,” said Feldman. “The outlook is brighter than it was.”

According to Feldman, Residence Services has resumed processing work orders for maintenance and repairs in the Village. Until last week, he said, tenants were told that no repairs would be carried out until the amendment was signed. Tom Kane, director of Residence Services, could not be reached for comment.

The amendment would have given UP access to the common living area in Greek houses, an area where USF regulations prohibit the consumption of alcohol. In an earlier interview, Kane said that reports from cleaning staff indicated that some fraternities were violating this rule. He added that he was particularly concerned that the consumption of alcohol in frat houses could result in injury or worse.

Kane also said the amendment would also bring the Village into line with other residence halls. UP has swipe cards allowing them to enter common areas, typically lobbies and hallways, for all campus residence complexes other than the Village.

Greek groups countered that the houses were designed to be private and that giving UP access was an invasion of privacy incompatible with Greek life. The design of Greek houses means that students going to the bathroom enter the common living area.

Glover said USF’s decision to withdraw the ultimatum was not an admittance of error.

“You might call it a different approach,” Glover said. “Frats are complaining about housekeeping. The landlord is complaining about caring for the premises and the safety of the tenants. Both sides have issues; we’ll meet and discuss them and resolve them.”

USF is not the only state university attempting to curtail on-campus drinking. In May, University of Florida President Bernie Machen asked students, educators and residents to devise methods to tackle underage and binge drinking. Four UF students have died in alcohol-related incidents in fewer than two years.

At USF, a committee headed by Jason Spratt, associate dean of students for Student Judicial Services, Greek students and a representative from Residence Services has been formed to come up with guidelines for social events in the Village.

Spratt said he hopes new guidelines will be in place for the fall. Feldman said that although he is happy that the ultimatum has been withdrawn, he does not know if the University will drop its demand that UP be given access to patrol Greek houses.

“We were very concerned about the repercussions from not signing (the amendment) and we were not happy with the alternatives,” Feldman said. “Now that seems to be loosened, but to what extent is not clear yet.”