Responding to neighbors' complaints about noise and rowdiness, Towson State University officials have promised to take a hard line toward off-campus fraternities and sororities -- possibly even seeking to have their national charters revoked.
Charles Maloy, acting vice president of student life, says the university will take legal action against disruptive Greek organizations. "The university remains committed to a Greek system, but only a strong Greek system," said Dr. Maloy, who will meet Oct. 18 with the university's 31 fraternities and sororities to discuss the problems.
His comments came after frustrated residents said the problems, which have continued for at least 15 years, were getting worse.
"There is havoc in the neighborhood," Judith Giacomo, vice president of the Aigburth Manor community association, said, describing noisy parties, students urinating outdoors and a trail of beer cans and trash in her neighborhood.
Other residents told of children being awakened at 2 a.m. by partygoers shouting obscenities, and spoke of their fears of drunken drivers in the East Towson neighborhoods near the campus.
"The good name of the university is being eroded," said Mrs. Giacomo, adding that the college has not been responsive to residents' concerns in the past. "There has been a lot of bad feeling on the association's part."
But now there's hope, she said, with the university's announcement that it will hold fraternities and sororities responsible for their behavior.
There is no Greek housing on campus, although negotiations are continuing to buy the nearby Valley View apartments to fill that need, Dr. Maloy said.
And university officials say they don't know how many off-campus fraternity and sorority houses there are. Without a special zoning exemption, they are illegal in residential communities, and so far, none has that exemption in Towson.
But residents say it's easy to find the Greek houses in Aigburth Manor, Burkleigh Square, Southland Hills and West Towson because the houses often advertise parties in the campus newspaper and display their letters.
"Basically, they are nice kids without structure," said Rebecca Wilson, who lives near a fraternity house on Terrace Dale. "But they don't belong in the neighborhoods."
Dr. Maloy asked residents to respond to problems by calling the police. With official documentation, he said, he could refer problems to the university's judicial affairs office, which would decide whether to bring charges against the offending organization.
This, in turn, could lead to the group losing its national charter, he said.
"It's the hard line we hoped you would take," Baltimore County Councilman Douglas B. Riley told him Wednesday during a quarterly meeting of community and college representatives.
Dr. Maloy cautioned there is a side effect: "If the [Greek] organization is not recognized by the university, then it is a group of people over which we have no control."