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Budget, Greek Life laws tabled at packed Potsdam meeting

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POTSDAM — A potentially controversial vote about the future of college Greek life was tabled by the village Board of Trustees on Monday night after students arrived en masse in opposition to the law.

More than 50 students attended the public comment period to oppose a proposed zoning law that would change the definition of fraternities and sororities for the purpose of deciding which groups could receive permission to live in village houses.

Most wore shirts with Greek letters to represent their organization; only a few spoke.

“We didn’t want to make a scene, but we wanted to show a strong opposition,” said Clarkson University alumnus Daniel J. White, formerly a member of the now-unrecognized Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Under existing law, a Greek organization that is recognized by Clarkson, SUNY Potsdam or a national organization can receive permission to live as a group in dwellings zoned for one- or two-family homes. The proposed law would allow only groups recognized by either of the local colleges to receive this permission.

The law would not affect existing organizations, according to Administrator David H. Fenton. As long as they stay in the house they currently occupy, they would be allowed to stay. But any organizations that wish to occupy a vacant house would have to be recognized by one of the colleges.

“We have instances of people pulling recognition out of the woodwork,” Mr. Fenton said.

Word spread fast among Potsdam’s Greek community. The few who spoke Monday said the proposal was too vague and unfair.

Scott B. Louis is a member of SUNY Potsdam’s recognized Delta Kappa Theta fraternity, which has a house on Elm Street. The proposed law, he argued, does not make it clear how organizations facing temporary suspensions would be treated.

“My fraternity was banned in the early 2000s, and there hasn’t been an incident since then,” he said. “Under this law, you’d be taking our house.”

The board voted 4-0 to table the law and work with the colleges to create more definitive wording before bringing it for a vote.

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