After Lambda Chi Alpha’s Gamma Psi chapter lost university recognition and housing privileges in June when it received an “unacceptable” rating on accreditation, the decision to keep the building a residence hall was a relatively easy one.
About 85 males and 30 females were still on the waiting list for on-campus housing when Residential Services decided to open the building, which is now called “House 97,” to male students on the list.
“We decided we were definitely going to use the space just for males, because when we looked at what we had outside of House 97, we had about 25 women’s spaces, and we know we are always going to get more, so we decided to go men only (in House 97), ” said Christine D’Aversa, the associate director of Residential Services.
When a fraternity, sorority or other residence hall is vacated, the first step for Residential Services is to do an assessment of whether the building needs to stay as housing or should be repurposed. For example, several years ago, Warren Square E was open. Based on the current need at the time, it was redesigned as office space.
The occupancy of the building is 32 students, but Residential Services decided to make the whole building have single occupancy rooms. This included renovating a study room next to the living room into a bedroom. Of the available 24 rooms, 23 are filled, with the last left empty from a late withdrawal.
Other renovations for the house included repainting, converting the basement area into a game table room and removing the commercial range in the kitchen and replacing it with a standard oven.
D’Aversa said replacing the commercial range is not because of liability concerns, but because it is more convenient for residents to use a standard oven.
“We tend to close off the pantry when we don’t have a cooking program, but with the kitchen though we tend to leave it open…they have the same amenities that a Warren Square house would have,” D’Aversa said.
With the overcapacity of several first-year residence halls this semester, many students thought that first-years were placed in typical upperclassman dorms like Taylor House, and the upperclassmen placed in House 97. D’Aversa said this was not the case, and all of the students in House 97 had previously been on the waiting list.
The addition of House 97 also created a change in Gryphon staffs, which Residence Life and Residential Services solved by adding two Gryphons to live in House 97. These Gryphons will serve on the same staff as those in Sayre Park. There is a second staff for the Sayre Park residence halls of UMOJA and House 104, but the House 97 Gryphons may have to address safety issues at UMOJA and House 104, such as lockouts, while on rounds. The Dean of Students’ office is providing a van that the Gryphons on this staff can use to travel between the residences during rounds or lockouts.
Colin Bader, ’16, is one of the two Gryphons in House 97 this year. He was originally on the waitlist for Gryphon staffs and then was asked to be on the staff for House 97.
“I knew the other Gryphon in 97, so I was excited to work with him and in a new residence hall, but (House 97) is kinda high up the hill, so I was a little worried about that. But it is nice having a bus stop right out in front,” Bader said.
Bader said he was originally supposed to be grouped with UMOJA and House 104, but due to the danger of traveling down the hill in winter weather, Residential Services decided to split the staff.
D’Aversa said that even while adding the additional on-campus students, the resident-to-Gryphon ratio was able to stay the same.
“We keep our student-to-Gryphon ratios at no more than 1 to 25, which is something that we are proud of, most schools are more like 1 to 50,” D’Aversa said. “So whenever we are going to add a building…the decision to place student staff comes down to how many students are in the building. Because there is a ground floor with three bedrooms, then first floor with seven, then second floor, we like to have two Gryphons because they are on different floors.”
While Lehigh has a policy of requiring students to live on-campus for two years, about 40 second-year students were given an exception this year because of the unavailability of other on-campus housing even after House 97 was added.
“The reality of it was, when the decision was made by the Accreditation committee at that time, there were 20 students on second-year placement that didn’t have housing from the process, and then you have 20 second-year Lambda Chi Alphas,” D’Aversa explained.
“When you look at those numbers, not even looking at the upper-class waiting list and the vacancies that we have on campus, we didn’t even have enough space using House 97 to place all of those sophomores. The decision was made at that point to allow them to seek off-campus housing.”
The students living in House 97 range from sophomores to fifth-years, but Bader says they are enjoying living together.
“It’s a bit spread out with the ages. However, with the hall I’m on, we interact with each other and say hi, we’re looking to hold a community development event pretty soon and I’ve received positive feedback from guys about it,” Bader said.
Lambda Chi Alpha member Jad Groome, ’17, declined to comment.