the center of gravity at Clarkson shifted to the hill from downtown Potsdam. Under the leadership of President Tony Collins, the University has developed a sweeping master plan to maximize the vibrancy of this scenic riverside location. And one of the most exciting aspects for students is the creation of new houses to serve Greek organizations and other shared-interest groups.
"Clarkson is fully committed to creating these residential options on campus," says President Collins. "Such living-learning environments, as we have seen with our fraternities and sororities, have proven highly effective in developing the leadership and teamwork skills that give our graduates an edge. At their best they promote the highest values - camaraderie, responsibility and a sense of service to the community. That's why constructing these houses has become an institutional priority."
The option of special interest housing will also attract prospective students and further energize the campus. "Residing on campus is vital for those who want to get the most out of their undergraduate experience," says Kathryn Johnson, vice president for University Outreach and Student Affairs. "Students' academic and extracurricular lives revolve around campus activities and relationships - with both peers and faculty. Despite e-mail and cell phones, face-to-face interaction is indispensable."
In recent years, Clarkson has provided an expanding array of peer-floor options in residence halls. Participating groups include students with a green environmental focus, first-year women majoring in science or engineering, outdoor enthusiasts, undergraduates who share a substance-free lifestyle, and members of the FIRST Robotics team. These days, Johnson points out, more and more high school graduates are looking for such alternatives when selecting a college.
Working with students and alumni representing fraternities, sororities and special interest groups, Clarkson has developed site plans for new University-owned housing to accommodate members of designated organizations. Student and alumni representatives will also be involved in the design of the facilities. Construction is planned for an area west of the current Woodstock Village apartments.
Existing fraternities and sororities will not be required to move from their current accommodations, but any of them can opt to relocate. Houses in this section of campus will also be available to theme interest groups who qualify. Each unit will be designed to accommodate approximately 20 residents.
"By expanding opportunities for Greeks and other interest groups to live together in more functional environments, we will further energize both their academic involvement and social interactions," observes Kurt Stimeling, dean of students. Construction of this specialized housing will not only reinforce the advantages of living together, but highlight the variety of these organizations and their service roles.
Features will include kitchens and dining facilities along with large and small public rooms for social gatherings and meetings. Exterior design and interior ambience of each house will be distinctive. Like other University-owned residences, the new units will pay for themselves over time through bed fees charged to residents, with rates determined in accordance with the current tier-structured system. The University will also be responsible for maintenance of the homes. "We anticipate these will be among the most unique housing units on campus," says Stimeling.
To qualify for residence, student organizations must be able to make a unique, positive contribution that will enhance and benefit the larger community. Special housing privileges will be reviewed annually. "Our sororities and fraternities already specify these goals and responsibilities in their charters," observes Stimeling.
Involvement of students and alumni in planning these houses has been highly collaborative. "The administration has been open to our input and suggestions," says Sigma Phi Epsilon's Chris Werely '02, a member of the Greek Alumni Council. "They took our feedback and came back with a model that respected our individuality by building unique residences for each organization. All of this has contributed to the feeling that we are partners with the University, sitting on the same side of the table."
"Adding Greek residences to the campus benefits everybody," notes Werely, who is vice president of Visual Lease, a real estate software company headquartered in New Jersey. "It provides leadership, social and service opportunities that are integrated into the campus and academic community. For the fraternity, it will be a home to build our future on. The University will benefit from healthy Greek organizations because of our contribution to a well-rounded college experience."
Clarkson currently recognizes three sororities and nine fraternities. Among these, five so far are planning or considering a move to new on-campus houses. Members of two fraternities, Sigma Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon,
now live on designated floors of residence halls.
The University is moving forward with this specialized housing and has engaged an architectural firm to develop a detailed site design to accommodate a growing number of future structures in accordance with the master plan.
While the timeframe is dependent upon the national economy, the University is already in discussions with fraternities that will probably have the first houses on campus in 24 to 36 months.