Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 27, 1995

On Students:
Fraternities Picking Up Community Support

Leslie Rice
Homewood News and Information

     The staff in the Office of Student Affairs at Homewood
hardly knows what to make of Hopkins fraternities lately. In the
old days, student affairs dean Larry Benedict used to brace
himself every Monday morning for the inevitable call from a
community resident lodging a complaint about fraternities. 

     This year, though, the phones are quiet.

     "We've never had this happen before," says Benedict. "There
have only been six complaints about fraternities this entire
semester when in recent years it wouldn't be unusual to have two
or three calls every Monday morning.    

     "What's even more interesting is that lately, a number of
people have called us to send compliments on how the fraternities
have been good neighbors. Honestly, that's pretty unheard of for
any university." 

     About 30 percent of undergraduates participate in Hopkins'
32 fraternities and sororities. Of the 11 sororities, only one
has a house, which is on campus. Only three fraternities have an
official house, each in the Charles Village/Homewood community.
There were more, but in the past few years three have closed, due
either to financial or community-related problems. City zoning
laws prohibit fraternities, so it is nearly impossible to
establish new official fraternity houses. 

     That, however, doesn't stop "rogue fraternity houses" from
sprouting up throughout the community. Every year, members of a
fraternity without an official house will rent a row home
together, and for the rest of the year, that building becomes
that group's fraternity house. These ad hoc fraternity houses
tend to generate the vast majority of complaints from residents,
says Benedict, because they have no established ties with the
community, and it is far more difficult for the university to
track down those students to answer to complaints.

     But in recent years, the university, community and the
students have launched a more focused attempt to work out issues
common among fraternities. 

     The Greater Homewood Community Corp., an umbrella group for
the communities that surround Hopkins, has mediated disputes
between residents and fraternities through its Neighbor Relations
Committee. And in recent years, Hopkins fraternity alumni have
tried to persuade fraternities to improve the looks of their
houses, keep noise to a minimum and be good neighbors.

     The efforts seem to have paid off. Alpha Delta Phi, also
known as the WaWa fraternity, at 33rd and St. Paul streets, used
to average about 12 complaints from the community per semester.
But for the second semester in a row, the chapter has not been
the source of one complaint. 

     "We're proud of that. We've been working hard on community
relations for about four years now, and people are beginning to
notice," says John Boyce, president of Alpha Delta Phi. "When I
was a freshman, the older members were just beginning to tackle
the appearance of the house and take seriously complaints the
community had with us. 

     "Since then, we've planted shrubs around the house, built a
nice courtyard, bought a dumpster for the trash and just
generally improved the looks of the place. The neighbors seem to
really appreciate that."

     There are also little things; a few times a semester,
members of the fraternity pull up weeds and pick up trash around
a public garden they have unofficially adopted at the corner of
Barclay and 33rd streets.

     Many of the fraternities are also becoming involved in their
neighborhood. Members of Delta Upsilon and Alpha Delta Phi walk
with the Charles Village citizen patrol groups and work with the
community to push for Charles Village to become a Special
Benefits District. Delta Upsilon fraternity members coach the
Charles Village soccer league, while Phi Kappa Psi recently
bought a computer for a nearby elementary school with Giant Food

     And on a recent Saturday morning, some 50 students involved
in a number of fraternities got up early to participate in
Charles Village's Clean-Up Day. 

     "We've seen a lot of improvement over the last year with the
official fraternity houses," says Sandy Sparks, director of the
Greater Homewood Community Corp. "Nevertheless, we still have a
lot of problems with the ad hoc fraternities."

     Although the idea hasn't been formally proposed, Benedict
and his office have been looking into creating "Fraternity and
Sorority Row" to be attached to the planned urban development
bill being considered for Charles Village. If the community is in
favor of the idea, the university would acquire a strip of row
homes to house the fraternities and sororities. Details--like
whether the university or the fraternities and sororities would
own the houses or where they would be located--haven't yet been
worked out.

     "Ideally, it would be placed in a business district or
somewhere where there would be no immediate neighbors," Benedict
says. "That way if they bother anyone, it would only be each

     Sparks believes the idea makes sense.

     "It would be fantastic. There would be tighter management
and more control over the fraternities," she explains. "The
trouble is that now these ad hoc fraternities can spring up
anywhere. With a row, the university would be in a better
position to make fraternities confront any problems they create.
I think, also, it would give these groups a sense of ownership in
their community, and there would be a peer incentive to maintain

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