The Alma College administration has been working on budget cuts to avoid the rising cost of tuition, and one of those cuts was to get rid of escrow funds for fraternities and sororities. The Interfraternity council on campus—IFC—has had many meeting concerning these decisions.
In previous years, escrow funds were given to each sorority and fraternity house in order to keep up with house maintenance concerns. Administration was expected to keep the house up to city codes and replacing a furnace or broken stairs while escrow would be used to fix holes in the wall or a broken microwave. Some organizations saved any extra money they had in a separate account, but other organizations did not. Many organizations are having money issues this fall since the decision to remove escrow.
“These budget discussions began 2 and a half years ago with the strategic allocations committee, so this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision on the part of the administration,” said Dr. Karl Rishe, Vice President of Student Affairs. “They held reviews of all departments in order to find a million dollar budget to support new programs and combat the rising cost of college.”
Rishe has been the main contact considering these changes to Greek Life funds. Rishe, along with the president’s board, met with two different national consultants concerning how to improve Greek life on campus.
“Even with the 5-6 thousand dollars in escrow and the building of brand new houses, our male Greek life membership has gone down for the past 4 years,” said Rishe.
Rishe said that the decision to cut escrow was talked about and supported by alumni, members of the board of trustees, and other consultants.
“The national consultants were clear that our system lacks accountability. Many chapters have dues that have not been paid by individual members for years. Also, the giving of funds to a Greek chapter in this form is not practiced at any colleges with similar Greek Life communities across the nation.”
Rishe added that we have seen growth in our sorority membership, service and GPA.
Greek chapters on campus have been discussing how they were informed of the changes to the policy. “I was originally notified of these changes three weeks into the semester, after Zeta Sigma had already approved our budget, so we had to do budget adjustments and reduce our expenses for the year,” said Nathaniel Fryer (’19).
Rishe added that other small housing associated with student groups such as the environmental house, the Model UN house, and several others do not receive funding for house maintenance.
Fraternity members on campus received different communication about the issue. “We do feel this decision has been made behind closed doors and no matter the reason, [it] was unfair that we had no say,” said Josh Stepke (’20).
Some students sought meetings with President Jeff Abernathy concerning these issues. “I’m not sure when it will be, but Abernathy suggested that interested members come to his house in order for there to be a discussion on these issues in hopes that some sort of solution can be made,” said Stepke.
“Abernathy is committed to Greek life as a whole, so these meetings will engage in topics outside of escrow and include all Greek chapters,” said Rishe. “Since President Abernathy was not a sole decision maker, a meeting of this sort will be a line of communication but won’t result in change that the students are looking for.”
Despite this discrepancy, there are some ways for people to get involved and try to promote change if they are unhappy with the new policy. Rishe recommended contacting Student Congress to help promote change in a productive way.
“Greek life chapters have the ability to ask for funding from Student Congress just like any other social organization on campus,” said Rishe.
Rishe added that this month all small houses, including Greek life, will have 4-year deferred maintenance plans created.
“The plans will be drafted by the student affairs department in conjunction with each small house manager and facilities,” said Rishe. “The plans will be public and serve as a way to hold each party accountable where house maintenance is concerned.”