After the conclusion of first semester final exams in December, Albion’s Board of Trustees announced that in October 2019, they adopted a policy mandating that, beginning in the fall of 2020, fraternity members will be required to eat at Baldwin Hall under meal plans provided by Bon Appétit Management Company.
Since this announcement, turmoil has been steadily brewing on campus, resulting most recently in an open letter sent out to the Albion College community on Monday. The document was signed by the presidents of all six fraternities on campus as well as multiple chapter advisers and alumni board members.
The letter cited recent attempts on behalf of Albion College administration to “engage in dialogue with student and alumni leaders about possible alternative solutions” to the current disagreement between fraternity members and administration.
Conversations between the administration and the fraternity members regarding the issue at hand, the letter argues, are not enough. The fraternities call for a reversal of the decision, asking that the college keep the standing fraternity meal plans in place rather than forcing fraternity members to abide by a regular student meal plan.
To further back the need for a reversal of this decision, fraternity members argue that the current decision is a breach of the Statement of Relationship, which outlines the expectations between the college and its Greek community. The college’s executive decision to change fraternity food providers, they say, eliminates the “consultative process set forth in the Statement of Relationship.”
As a result, fraternity members have asked the college to engage students and alumni in conversation prior to making future executive decisions which impact the student and alumni community at large.
Impacts on the College Community
For the Greek community, the consequences of the college’s decision are numerous, a fact recognized by both Greek and non-Greek students.
“By limiting the men on what or where they can eat, you will charge them more money, which will severely limit the amount of men who can join fraternity life,” said Adriana Cazzell, a sophomore from Dover, Del. “It’s much cheaper now to live there than being on a $6,000 board plan, which will eventually limit fraternity life on campus. This will devastate an entire community on campus, a community of men looking to better themselves and their world.”
According to the open letter, fraternity members will see a much higher cost of living and membership if the transition is enacted. Additionally, the uniqueness and close bonds of their community that come as a result will be put at risk.
“I think that the main drawback if the college maintains its decision as it stands right now would be the loss of something that makes being part of a fraternity on Albion special,” said Tyler White, a junior from Grosse Point, Mich. and member of Delta Tau Delta. “With our current situation, meals are something that brings us together as brothers. I find that my conversations at breakfast, lunch or dinner are some of those that I remember most and are those that have brought me closest to the people in my house.”
Among these other drawbacks, an overarching disadvantage to the current plan to transition fraternity members to a regular student meal plan is that it would require some chapters to fire cooks, which is both financially and emotionally taxing to the cooks, their families and fraternity members alike.
“I’m afraid that it might increase costs for living at the house and in doing so raise our dues,” said Jayden VanMaurick, a sophomore from Holland, Mich. and member of Sigma Nu. “With that, fraternities could lose members who are unable to afford to stay within the fraternities.”
But, if this transition is to occur this upcoming fall, Greek students are not the only students who will be impacted. This decision impacts not only fraternity members and alumni, but current students as well.
Non-Greek students have voiced that Baldwin is full in its current capacity at a normal meal time. In addition to concerns about limited space, students have expressed worries that Bon Appetit will not be able to provide enough food to meet the needs of an entire campus.
“I think the new influx of fraternity members is much more than the college thinks it will be,” said Tommy Trueax, a sophomore from Rochester, Mich. “An already busy and oftentimes cramped Baldwin is just going to get ridiculous.”
In addition to Baldwin, students fear that the alternative places on campus where they go to eat will face the same issues.
“Baldwin is already crowded enough as it is. If they reach capacity are they really going to turn students away who pay for their board plan,” said Cazzell. “The Eat Shop has lunch lines that go all the way down the stairs sometimes. Adding more people who have to be on the Board Plan is not efficient at all. This will overwork the staff on campus and cause too much of a commotion. There is barely enough room for us as is.”
“The fact that the Board of Trustees made this decision without informing the men’s fraternities is frankly unacceptable,” said VanMaurick. “Sure, there would have been push back either way, but we could have come up with a compromise on what both parties want.”
The college has not yet openly responded to the letter, which was sent to all of campus. Looking ahead to next fall, it is unclear if the college will decide to revoke the decision, as fraternity members have asked, or maintain the current decision.
“Going forward, I think the college should continue to negotiate with the fraternities before coming to a permanent decision. While it is fair that the college wants our kitchens and food to be healthier and meet health standards, they went about change in the complete wrong way,” said White. “Over winter break, I was shocked to hear about this change. Nobody was given warning that this was going to happen.”