Since Penn introduced a new policy requiring sophomores to live on campus starting in fall 2021, students have sharply critiqued the University and claimed that the policy will spell the end of Greek life housing.
The second-year policy was announced to students in a September 2018 email from Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett. Administrators said the new housing policy is part of a Second-Year Experience program, which will include sophomore-specific courses, celebrations, and social events. Penn has since reaffirmed that on-campus housing will not include Greek housing, prompting Greek life leaders to seek alternate ways to encourage upperclassmen to live in chapter houses.
Penn's announcement comes after the construction for New College House West began in December 2018. NCHW is located on 40th and Walnut streets and had a record-breaking $163 million budget. The dorm is slated to house 450 students and open in fall 2021, the first semester sophomores will be required to live on campus.
Penn's move follows policies set by its peer institutions. Yale University and Princeton University require freshmen and sophomores to live on campus, while Brown University requires students to live on campus for three years.
Greek life leaders have since voiced opposition to the new rule, pointing out that chapter houses are mostly filled by sophomores. Students in Greek life said they are worried the empty rooms will drive up dues, and that the policy will disrupt the social atmosphere in Greek life.
Here's a timeline of how Greek life is coping with the effects of the policy.
Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils show their opposition
Days before the official announcement on Sept. 26, 2018, Greek life leaders from the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council met with two Penn administrators, according to then-Undergraduate Assembly President and 2019 College graduate Michael Krone. Krone said the conversation took place to discuss the implications the new rule would have on Greek life housing.
After the official announcement was made, The Daily Pennsylvanian published a guest column by then-IFC Vice President Brian Schmitt, who argued that the decision to bar sophomores from chapter houses would bring “enormous harm to Greek life" and called on Gutmann and Pritchett to allow Greek life to count for on-campus housing.
“Affiliated, on-campus chapter houses check every box the University is looking for when it comes to their new Second Year Experience Program: supervision, community, and wellness,” wrote Schmitt, who is now a College senior. “Not allowing sophomores to live in these houses eliminates an important and often healthier alternative to college housing.”
Schmitt wrote that filling chapter houses is already a problem for fraternities and sororities. Because sophomores comprise at least half of all chapter house residents, excluding sophomores from the houses would make it “next to impossible” to fill the houses, he wrote.
The column was officially approved by the IFC and Panhellenic boards at the time.
Chapters look for ways to blunt policy’s impact
In September, Greek life representatives said they are no longer pushing the administration to count Greek housing as on-campus housing, and they are instead looking for ways around the policy.
“At the end of the day, it’s obviously not our decision. This is not to say that we agree or disagree with it," Panhellenic President and Wharton senior Claire 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.”
Canestrino said the responsibility falls upon the individual chapters to fill their houses and Panhel helps facilitate conversations among chapters.
College sophomore Maya Davidov, a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, 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.
Despite the opposition raised shortly after the policy's announcement, Canestrino said she does not believe the policy will have an enormous impact on Greek life. However, she said the adjustment period for Greek life will be “tough."
“I have the most faith that the chapters will be able to figure it out and we’ll be able to work with the administration to figure it out to make that adjustment as easy as possible,” Canestrino said. “I don’t think this is like a huge emergency or anything."
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