Kansas University officials are engaged in a major analysis of how they can save money and enhance efficiency and effectiveness in an effort to build the university into an even finer center of academic and research excellence.
It would be interesting to know what connection there might be between the current million-dollar Huron Consulting study to recommend ways the university could operate more efficiently and the possibility that university officials would consider requiring all freshman men to live in university residence halls.
Enrollment at KU has declined for the last three years. At an August meeting at KU, a Huron representative said that he thought the vacancy rate “in the dorms” at KU was about 10 percent. At that time, Jill Jess, a KU spokeswoman, said he was talking only about residence halls and that the overall occupancy for residence and scholarship halls and Jayhawker Towers apartments was 91.1 percent last year. That figure may or may not be related to a recent email sent by Amy Long, KU associate director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, to senior representatives of KU men’s fraternities saying:
“Hello National Fraternity Director:
“I am writing you today urgently seeking information, on behalf of our vice president for student affairs. The University of Kansas has a tradition of allowing freshmen/new members to live in privately owned fraternity housing. Currently, as part of the University’s strategic planning process, one item being considered is moving to a First year live on requirement for all students. This would no longer allow new members to live in chapter property their freshman year.”
The letter stated the information was needed “urgently” and should be provided no later than Friday, Oct. 21.
Several specific questions were asked, including how many first-year students are living in fraternities. Also, whoever authorized the questionnaire stated, “This message w/attachments (message) is intended solely for the use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or proprietary.”
Almost immediately, Tammara Durham, interim vice provost for student affairs at KU, sent a follow-up email to “undisclosed recipients” on the subject of “KU Freshman Fraternity Living.” She stated, “I wanted to correct an email sent by Amy Long requesting information regarding fraternity living. There is no university intention of prohibiting freshman students from living in fraternity houses. I was simply interested in this information as I take on a new role at the university.”
She noted fraternities and sororities have been an important asset to the university and that the university is committed to supporting a “thriving Greek community.” She ended by apologizing for “the miscommunication.”
Clearly, KU officials are trying to cover their tracks by denying any involvement in the freshman men matter and probably are trying to suggest any such information-gathering effort was the idea of the Huron group.
It is understandable that representatives of a number of KU fraternities are deeply concerned about any effort by KU officials to require freshman men to live in university housing rather than in a fraternity house. This could have serious implications for the fraternities and is looked upon as an effort either to weaken the fraternity system at KU or help fill empty KU dorm rooms.
Unfortunately, there are too-frequent reports of misbehavior by some living in KU fraternities. However, the fraternity system at KU is looked upon as one of the best in the nation. The on-campus accomplishments and involvement of KU fraternity and sorority members are outstanding, and, as alumni, they have been active and highly effective and generous supporters of the university.
It would be wrong and shortsighted for KU officials to weaken or handicap the KU fraternity/sorority system.
It’s obvious KU officials need to get their stories straight and/or acknowledge that Huron officials may be encouraging KU officials to investigate the fraternity system as a means of capturing more residence hall revenue for the school.