Students pass by the houses of Greek life on campus every day, from trips to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion to the fraternity quad to the late-night Fran’s Cafe which passes an array of sorority.
But many students unaffiliated with Greek Life have never been to one of these houses, let alone understand how the Greek housing process compares to traditional campus residential life. The Daily spoke to students and staff involved in the scheme to explain what lies behind the Greek-lettered exteriors of these houses.
Home ownership and management
The University owns most of the Greek houses on campus, but each house has its own management system for maintenance and operations. Most fraternities and sororities rent their homes from Northwestern through their housing societies, which are alumni groups for Greek societies that help run the living spaces.
Homes can choose to give Residential Services primary responsibility for facility management – including cleaning and furnishing – or they can opt out and direct their respective housing companies to take on these tasks instead, Alejandro Domínguez, Director of Residential Services Operations says The Daily. Two Greek houses opted in and 15 opted out.
Room Selection Process and Residence Requirements
Living in a Greek house counts towards students’ two-year on-campus residency requirement. Room prices vary by size and house, but are generally comparable to or less expensive than university residences.
Medill Senior Nick Papandreou, who is Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Vice President of Finance, said the fraternity charged $8,700 this year for a single room. The cost of a single room in residence varied between $11,937 and $12,633.
According to several fraternity leaders, most students who live in Greek houses are sophomores, while juniors and seniors typically live off campus. Because of this flexibility, most Greek members who wish to live in their chapter house can do so.
“Anyone who wants a room can get one,” Papandreou said. “There is never any competition.”
Papandreou said Sig Ep members choose rooms based on their seniority in the fraternity, but other fraternities use random systems and prioritize executive members in room selection processes.
Second communications student Hayden Sikora, president of Delta Tau Delta, said the chapter is also considering the house’s capacity – 34 residents – during the emergency process, as it wants everyone to be able to live in the home if desired. He said all freshmen who joined Delt this year plan to live in the house during the 2022-23 academic year.
All homes have certain requirements to maintain their leases, Domínguez said. Houses often need to accommodate a certain number of residents to be financially secure, otherwise the University may turn the house into a standard dormitory or other type of building.
NU is working with fraternity and sorority housing companies to determine how the university or Greek organizations can use these homes, university spokeswoman Hilary Hurd Anyaso said in an email to The Daily.
“We are working with housing corporations to discuss the use of space at times when Chapter operations may limit the ability or need to house members, as well as timelines for a return to normal operations” , Anyaso said.
Lambda Chi Alpha president and Weinberg junior Nathan Heyen said in an email to The Daily that the home typically needs at least 20 of the 24 residents for the housing corporation to pay the lease and other costs. In recent years, however, the company has waived this requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of its 29 residents this year, Sikora said Delt House took in six juniors, an unusually high number, in order to meet its residency requirement.
“If you don’t have enough people living in the house, the housing corporation can’t keep it open unless they charge each resident an obscene amount of money,” Sikora said. “So to keep it in the green, we need to have at least 29, 30 people living in the house every year.”
Navigate Meal Plans
Some fraternity and sorority houses offer their members meal plans, usually ranging from 10 to 13 meals per week. Most offer at least two hot meals on weekdays, but none on weekends, allowing residents to finish Friday leftovers, eat cold food from the pantry, or visit Evanston’s restaurants on Saturdays and on Sunday.
Greek housing meal plans are generally more affordable than standard plans offered by the University, several chapter presidents said. Sikora said Delt’s meal plan, which is required for members living in the house, has saved residents nearly $600 per quarter. He added that students can supplement it with an additional University meal plan. NU also offers an exclusive meal plan for Greek students who join their house meal plan but live in non-Greek accommodation on campus.
The meal plan, Sikora said, can be inconvenient when he’s away from home because he can’t eat lunch at a campus dining hall. He added that weekends can be “kind of a toss-up”.
“If Friday’s meal isn’t very good – we don’t really like it or it’s not saving well, it’s not a good leftover meal – then it’s like, ‘Well, I guess we just eat every meal,'” Sikora said. “I used to eat a lot of cereal on the weekends. It’s not too bad, you get used to it.
Some Greek companies that usually offer meal plans did not do so this year due to low membership. Papandreou said Sig Ep usually includes an optional meal plan for members which he described as “much better” than NU’s meal plans, but there weren’t enough residential members this year for that. makes sense financially.
Jamie Dickman, Medill’s sophomore and Delta Delta member, said the chapter’s sorority members collectively decided at the start of the academic year to purchase the self-service meal plan instead. from NU. She said they compared the costs of each option and concluded that the University meal plans were more attractive and would work better with members’ different schedules.
“It would be very inconvenient for all of us to come home and walk down (to South Campus) whenever it was time for a meal,” Dickman said. “Some of us have jobs, some of us have a lot of classes up north and it was really more about convenience than cost. Also, I think having a chef for a handful of people is really not necessary.
Rules of residence and surveillance
Residents of Greek Houses mostly follow the same regulations as other students who live on campus. Papandreou said residential living guidelines on everything from candles to bicycles also apply to fraternity and sorority spaces.
He added that Greek homes also enforce a ban on the consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages for all residents, even those who are of legal drinking age. Ordinary residences do not respect this rule.
“I can’t stress enough how tough the policies are,” Papandreou said. “There are misconceptions about fellowship spaces – people think we can do whatever we want.”
Although Greek houses do not have resident assistants, Papandreou said all fraternities will host a graduate student residential counselor who enforces house policies starting in the fall. He said the Office of Fraternity and Sisterhood has long asked fraternities to appoint an advisor, and Sig Ep has employed one for years. However, it was difficult to find candidates during the pandemic, so many fraternities did not have a residential counselor, he added.
Greek houses also have internal procedures for handling discipline. Heyen said Lambda Chi has a student house manager who enforces the rules and coordinates with the housing corporation, in addition to a risk manager who oversees the house with the chapter president.
Sikora said Delt has a student honor council, made up of its sergeant-at-arms and two members from each year, which negotiates violations like not keeping the house clean or being seriously drunk. The purpose of the honor board is to promote accountability, he said.
Weinberg’s second student, Matthew Nielsen, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, said the university also installed security cameras inside the fraternity house. If Pike violated the student code of conduct, NU would meet with the chapter board to determine disciplinary action such as penalties, he said.
Due to a code of conduct violation, Pike was suspended Spring Quarter and lost his home until the fall of 2023, Anyaso said in the email.
NU originally suspended Pike on February 9 and upheld the suspension on March 7 following an appeals process, Anyaso said. The University announced Wednesday that Pike’s former home, 2313 Sheridan Rd., will be a residence hall in 2022-23 and will likely be operated by Residential Services through the 2024-25 academic year.
Nielsen said he was unable to see many of his close fraternity friends because NU randomly assigned Pike members to on-campus residence halls after his suspension. He said losing the house was one of the worst parts of his experience in Greek life.
“If you’re into Greek life, housing is an integral part of that experience,” Nielsen said. “If I had known my freshman year I would be pulled from home, I don’t think I would have joined Greek Life.”
Nicole Feldman contributed reporting.
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