Housing violations in Greek houses typically go unaddressed

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

On a campus with more than 60 certified fraternity and sorority houses, the University of Illinois boasts one of the largest Greek system in the country. So, in a Greek system as large as ours, one that involves nearly 25 percent of the undergraduate student population, maintenance and safety of Greek houses should be of the utmost concern. 

The combination of relatively tight living quarters, masses of students away from home for the first time and the newfound freedoms of a college campus — building violations are inevitable. 

But last week, CU-CitizenAccess reported that many of these violations take weeks, even months, before they are addressed and fixed.

If these violations are going unenforced, then there is a clear need for stricter enforcement. But stricter enforcement shouldn’t be dependent on a mishap; it is something the University should be pushing from its end, even if it comes down to considering whether to de-certify a house.

Although required by law, fining Greek houses for unaddressed safety violations will inevitably make it tougher to get the safety hazards addressed in a timely manner. Many times the money was never allocated in the house’s budget or they must seek approval from their property managers.

Violations, in almost any residential building, shouldn’t come unexpected, though. Too often you see a multitude of electrical cords plugged in, seeping every last bit of power, and items hanging from the ceiling or the most common one: the dysfunctional smoke (and sometimes carbon monoxide) detector. 

This is a matter of convenience for students, one that becomes a slippery slope for other chronic habits.

Consider this example: Many University Housing residence halls and Private Certified Housing facilities are relatively strict about appliances and often have resident advisers or another type of supervisor inspect living spaces; yet CU-CitizenAccess still reported a handful of violations in these private-certified and University residence halls.

As aforementioned, violations are bound to happen in almost any building. But the urgency to fix some of those issues by the houses themselves, starting with the most critical, when possible, is missing. That’s the real issue at hand.

With a quarter turnover in University student population each year, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to educate everyone on what is generally considered safe. 

In some cases, it’s up to the property owner whether to allow a certain item — and much of that falls on the students to be proactive in seeking out the information, which is often buried in the handbook on move-in day or written in fine print in the lease.

That’s where enforcement comes in, especially with the Greek houses, which arguably pose a greater danger to those who live in them because of the high number of students living in a tight area. Fining isn’t a solution that would necessarily fix problems in a timely manner. 

The money for violations may not be allocated in the house’s budget, and many students may not be aware of what is considered a violation and how to correct the violation.  

So the next step lies on the shoulders of the vice chancellor for student affairs, whose office has the authority to de-certify Greek organizations if the violations go unaddressed. 

If de-certified, a Greek house does not have the ability to provide living space to first-year students, namely second-semester freshmen. Although this would be an unfavorable alternative, it’s something that is seriously considered — as it should continue to be — when city officials tell the housing office that a certified house isn’t putting forth the effort to correct its violations.

Whether a shorter timetable or a tighter leash on repeat offenders makes a difference, the wait-and-see approach by officials appears to be falling short, just like some of the Greek house’s efforts.