On-campus Greek houses will not be open to sophomores under Penn's new housing policy requiring second-year students to live on campus. While the University claims this decision was made to foster a sense of community and create a support system for second-year students, it is disrupting Greek communities that already strive to achieve these goals and putting the future of the Greek community at risk. Penn ought to reconsider its decision to bar sophomores from living in on-campus Greek houses.
Although Greek life is far from perfect, its mission is consistent with Penn’s in creating a "second-year experience." Fraternities and sororities intend to serve as support networks which promote inclusion, integrity, and camaraderie. An email signed by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett claimed that Penn's new policy will “measurably strengthen the sense of community [among first- and second-years], promoting students’ achievement and well-being, enhancing support for students’ academic and social lives.” Rather than undermining the efforts of Greek organizations by preventing sophomores from living in their houses, Penn must see them as consistent with this stated vision. Greek life provides many students with a supportive community.
While chapter houses are a key part of the Greek experience, Penn’s decision puts Greek life itself in jeopardy. Some fraternities and sororities will be unable to fill their houses, since they usually fill them with sophomores. In turn, member dues are likely to rise and some chapters may be forced to shut down.
If the University insists that on-campus housing is an important part of the “second-year experience,” it needs to be flexible and inclusive of the different types of on-campus communities that second-year students want to live in. Some will want dorms; others will want Greek houses.
There are many problems in the Greek community, including lack of diversity, exclusion of low-income students, and risk of sexual assault. Despite its flaws, however, Greek life can also be an enriching part of students’ experiences at Penn.
Rather than reach out to those communities and include them in the Second-Year Experience, the University has chosen to disrupt them. Sophomores will be left with a system that excludes a major part of the existing second-year experience: Greek housing. The University’s policy to exclude Greek houses from the Second-Year Experience will dramatically minimize Greek life's role on campus and fundamentally change what it means to join a fraternity or a sorority at Penn.
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