A year since Penn announced that sophomores would be required to live on campus starting in fall 2021, Greek life groups have been examining ways to blunt the policy's impact, such as potentially requiring upperclassmen to live in chapter houses.
Administrators have confirmed that on-campus housing will not include chapter houses, despite Greek life leaders' recent efforts to change the policy. Students are now moving forward to work around the new rule.
In an email to all undergraduates in September 2018, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett wrote that they would create a new Second-Year Experience program focusing on creating stronger connections between students — which included the new policy that sophomores would be required to live on campus.
Interfraternity Council President and College senior Brian Schmitt wrote in a guest column last year that Penn failed to consider the benefits that Greek life chapter housing shares with the College House system.
"We ask President Gutmann and Provost Pritchett to sincerely consider allowing sophomores to live in affiliated Greek chapter houses," he wrote in the column.
Greek life leaders, however, are no longer working against the policy. Panhellenic President and Wharton senior Claire Canestrino said the council is instead working with administrators to lessen the effect on sorority housing.
“At the end of the day, it’s obviously not our decision. This is not to say that we agree or disagree with it," Canestrino said. “We work closely with the administration now, to make the most of it for our chapters and to support them as we go through this change.”
Although Greek life leaders have started to move forward, some students still believe the policy will hurt the community.
College sophomore Maya Davidov, a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, said she does not support the policy because nearly half of the current sisters who live in their chapter house are sophomores.
“We’ve had problems filling the house before so it will be even more challenging now," Davidov said. “Living on campus can pose a large financial strain in comparison to living off campus, and I also just think that people should have the freedom to live wherever they want.”
Davidov said she thinks sorority dues for each member could increase if rooms are left empty.
“The executive board will probably just adjust housing rules to make sure we fill it, by drafting people to live in the house, which other sororities do anyways, or forcing all of the executive members to live in the house,” she said.
Engineering sophomore Ronak Bhagia, a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity who currently lives in chapter housing, said requiring sophomores to live on campus will harm the closeness of their members.
“Not having sophomores live together I think is going to have a social impact,” Bhagia said. "When it comes to a support system, you can’t get much better than a chapter house, where brothers of different years and experiences are around and always down to help you out."
To have enough space for sophomores to live on campus, Penn is building the $163 million New College House West. The four-year dorm will house about 450 students and open in fall 2021, when the policy takes effect.
Vice Provost for University Life spokesperson Monica Yant Kinney said although the second-year housing policy has not changed, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara King is working with students and staff to mitigate the impact of the policy on Greek life.
“[King] is working closely with staff and student leaders to consider the potential impact of the Second-Year Experience program on the Greek system, including Greek housing, which has traditionally been attractive to sophomores," Yant Kinney wrote in an email.
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