Brother <<Last Name>>,
Putting Perspective on Upcoming House Projects
I hope you and your families enjoyed your Labor Day weekend and are successfully re-engaging with your post-summer routines. Our undergraduate brothers are back to their classes and other campus activities and are just completing Fall rush. (More on that in an upcoming note.) They are also working hand in hand with the Delta Chi Association Facilities Committee and representatives of the Cornell Facilities department to complete several house projects now underway.
As I mentioned in an email last week (see here), we are on the verge of completing a major milestone in our efforts to preserve our fraternity lodge for generations of future Dekes. To understand what that milestone entails, please allow me to set the stage by reminding you of our recent chapter history. In the Fall of 2013, the Delta Chi Chapter had its charter revoked by DKE International with Cornell subsequently removing our recognition as a fraternity in good standing at Cornell. The DKE brothers remained in the house through the end of the 2013-14 school year at which time the Delta Chi Association worked with the university to turn the house into a dormitory for law students. Our expectation was that we would return to campus after our suspension ended. During this transition of the house, over $600,000 (funded by cash and debt) was spent to make the building compliant with fire, safety, and other requirements outlined by the Cornell Housing department. These improvements were essential for improving the livability of the house and allowed our house operations accounts to generate generous sums of revenue from law students while DKE remained off campus. These revenues helped defray the costs for those fire and safety improvements and provided a base of financial support for additional house projects that have since been completed.
During the time that the law students were living in the house, the front porch of the house collapsed as construction workers attempted to access a gas pipe below the walkway from the south porch to the front door of the house. This collapse was determined to have been caused by the lack of proper water drainage away from the house, causing the bowing of the support walls for the porch. Because of the “deferred maintenance” in this area of the house, insurance would not pay for the restoration of the porch. As a result, house maintenance accounts and generous Delta Chi alumni donations to the Building Our Legacy Capital Campaign had to be tapped to the tune of about $500,000 for the repairs to the porch and rebuilding the steps to the street. Determined to not allow this to happen again, Cornell and DKE facilities representatives have focused a significant amount of time and resources over the past few years to shoring up the outer envelope of the house, making sure that the house is properly protected from the elements and that water is successfully drained away from the house. This effort includes many of the projects cited in the email last week, which have cost DKE approximately $300,000 since the return of the undergraduates in the 2018-19 school year. Our recent project milestone marks the completion of the projects that are intended to protect the house from those external weather and water threats and give us some piece of mind that we are doing everything possible to protect the long-term viability of 13 South Avenue as a living-quarters for undergraduate brothers at Cornell.
So, after $1.5 million has been spent since 2014, we’re done right? Not quite… Times have changed since many of us resided at the DKE House. Increased amenities in university dorms and Collegetown apartment complexes have elevated student’s expectations for housing, especially in the older buildings on campus like 13 South Avenue (129 years old and going strong!). While nobody expects the DKE house to match the most modern and luxurious additions to the local housing market, DKE must continue to invest in the livability of the house to ensure that we can remain competitive for students seeking on-campus housing in the coming years.
What does livability mean? Well let’s start with what has become the most debated projected house project over the last year or two: the need to improve the electrical distribution system in the house. Right now, the DKE house operates on about 200 amps of electrical power. That amperage equals what might be utilized by a typical four-bedroom family home, but the DKE house has over 30 rooms! Residents routinely report electrical system failures, resulting in many trips to the circuit breaker boards to reset the breakers and frequent service calls to the university facility managers. We know this is only going to get worse over time. The higher temperatures early and late in the school year have increased the number of portable air conditioners utilized by residents of the house. Brothers enjoy having mini fridges in their rooms and have more and more electronics each year that rely on house-provided electricity for use. When brothers start to have electric cars, there will be an expectation that they can charge them at their place of residence. The number of electric cars is only going to increase, and policies and markets push the automobile industry away from combustion engine technologies. In a similar vein, Ithaca is trying to lead the way in transitioning to a carbon free energy footprint, which means that there will be more and more requirements in the years to come to leverage electricity for heat and cooking instead of our current gas alternatives. Making sure that the house has an electrical system that meets current needs and provides capacity for future electricity requirements is an essential task for our chapter, and a costly one at that.
What else falls under livability? Upperclassmen in 2022 are increasingly insistent on having single rooms after leaving the freshmen dorms. In the past, the DKE houses’ two-room system pushed a significant amount of social engagement to the second-floor rooms. The house now operates as a series of single rooms through the second and third floors which has pushed a lot of social engagement to the common areas of the house like the living room and basement bar area. Making those areas more inviting to
residents and more resilient to the increased foot traffic is essential for long term sustainability of the house. Brothers have been creative over the past few years in carving out areas of the house to store workout equipment and set up musical equipment like pianos and drum sets but making those areas a bit more inviting would help the actives in selling those amenities to potential new members in the future.
All of these projects are important to the long-term health of the house, both in terms of maintaining the house as a desirable living accommodation for undergraduates, but also to help recruit the number of brothers needed to remain viable as an on-campus fraternity in the decades to come. Of course, all of these improvements cost money. After spending $1.5 million over the last decade on other important house projects, we are evaluating our efforts to balance the needs we have while anticipating the potential revenue we must accumulate in the future to finance such projects. Next week I will send out a follow up email about where we are financially as a chapter so that you can better understand how these two factors work hand in hand.
Once again, thanks for your support to keep DKE strong and vibrant. If you have any questions about anything I have discussed above, don’t hesitate to reply to the email above. I love discussing these issues with my fellow brothers as we all have a stake in seeing to the future success of our chapter and its viability on campus moving forward.