Interview with Tyler Carroll, Chapter President, ATO Fraternity, WPI

Last week, I interviewed Sam Garland, a student at Holy Cross, regarding neighbor relationships.

Because I’d like to continue that discussion and highlight a different neighborhood, I spoke with Tyler Carroll, the president of the Gamma Sigma chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at WPI.  Their house is located on Regent Street in Worcester, and they are active participants in the Greater Hammond Heights Neighborhood Association (GHHNA). 

How were relations with your neighbors a few years ago? When they had complaints about noise, etc., did they bring them to your fraternity directly, did they go to the school, or did they phone the police?

A few years ago we were having problems with one specific neighbor. When she had problems with us, she would never contact us first, she phone the police and write letters to campus and to our National Fraternity Headquarters.

Why did you decide to make a change in your interactions with your neighbors?  Were you compelled to do so by the WPI Administration or was it something that your fraternity decided on?

We felt that the opportunity to be a positive part of a neighborhood association set us apart from other Fraternities on campus and helped break the negative stereotypes associated with Fraternities. The WPI Administration never told us to get involved with the neighborhood association, we just felt it would better our neighborhood relations.

What was the first change that was made?  Were you invited to go to the neighborhood association meetings?

We always attend neighborhood meetings as a good gesture but we decided to get more involved with the community by co-hosting specific neighborhood events with the Greater Hammond Heights Neighborhood Association (GHHNA). We also started hosting neighborhood meetings in our chapter house, something that had not been done in over 10 years.

How long did it take for your relationship to improve with your neighbors? What were some of the milestones in that process?

Relationships with the neighbors started to improve almost immediately once they saw the effort that we were putting forth in order to make a positive change. Some milestones in that process were numerous letters written by different neighbors to campus, the President of WPI and our National Fraternity Headquarters about our positive changes.

How involved is your fraternity in the neighborhood association?  Do you feel more a part of the Worcester community at large because of your involvement in the neighborhood association?

We are very involved in the neighborhood association. Annually we co-host a haunted house and Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood children at Bancroft Tower as well as participate in the neighborhood Earth Day Cleanup and the Holiday Wreath Hanging at Bancroft Tower. Lastly we perform many different types of community service for the neighborhood including can food and clothing drives and small tasks such as moving furniture and helping neighbors with anything we can. We definitely feel more of a part of the Worcester community because of our involvement. We only spend four years in the neighborhood but the neighbors still take the time to get to know us through our involvement.

Do you think having an organized neighborhood association to talk to made a difference in your relationship (as opposed to no neighborhood organization — just one-off discussions with individual neighbors)?

Having an organized neighborhood association to discuss issues with has absolutely made a difference in our relationships. They can let us know what things we are doing well and what we need to improve on and allows us to come together to fix these problems as one group. In the rare occurrences of problems with neighbors outside the GHHNA, they work with us and the neighbor to help resolve the problem and still maintain a positive relationship.

If the neighbors have any problems with your house (because of noise, etc.) what is the process for resolving those issues?

Every year we give the neighbors the contact information for our executive board so they can contact us in the event of a problem, thus keeping the problem within the neighborhood association instead of involving campus or the police.

How involved do you think a college or university should be when addressing issues of students who live off campus and those students’ neighbors?  Do you think that WPI had the right level of involvement in your situation?

I believe a college or university should have very minimal involvement with students in off campus housing. Campus should only get involved when direct complaints are made from the neighbors to the university. The students and neighbors should try and resolve their differences internally before involving the college or university and having a neighborhood association helps greatly in this process. WPI has an appropriate level of involvement, only enforcing changes when direct complaints are made. However, we feel that WPI should still be aware of everything that is going on, whether or not it pertains to campus and even when the situations are resolved within the neighborhood. This keeps campus aware of our involvement and shows that we are working to improve our relationships within the neighborhood

What is your impression of the City of Worcester (government, community, or both) as a whole?

At times the city of Worcester seems to have a negative view towards Fraternities but we still involve ourselves in events such as Work on Worcester and charities like the Worcester Friendly House in order to try and improve these views.

Would you continue to live in the city after you graduate?  Why or why not?

I am senior at WPI and graduating in a few months and I am currently searching for apartments so I can continue to live in Worcester after I graduate! I want to remain a part of the Worcester Community and WPI and do not want to leave the people in Worcester.

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