After concerns that they will not be able to fill rooms because of a new housing policy requiring sophomores to live on campus starting in 2021, Penn's Delta Delta Delta chapter is considering breaking the lease on their house to search for a smaller house.
Since administrators announced in September 2018 that all sophomores will have to live on campus, Penn has confirmed that on-campus housing will not include Greek housing. The new policy has prompted backlash from the Greek life community and has stoked fear that chapter houses will not be filled.
Tri Delta Vice President of Administration and Wharton senior Rachel Abbe said the sorority will face a “huge issue with capacity” once the new policy takes effect in fall 2021, since traditionally sophomores fill the house. Tri Delta President and College senior Kabele Cook estimated that Tri Delta has been living in the same house on 40th and Spruce streets since the 1960s.
Tri Delta has the largest sorority house at Penn with a capacity of about 34 people, Cook said, making it even more difficult for the group to fill the house without sophomores. The majority of the rooms are shared triples and doubles.
Because most upperclassmen prefer to live in a single, Abbe said upperclassmen typically do not want to live in the house. Many of the sorority’s juniors also study abroad, Cook said.
"I have not been advised of the information you have presented regarding Tri Delta," Associate Vice Provost for University Life Tamara King wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. "Because I cannot confirm the accuracy of that information, I will not be commenting on it."
She added that "OFSL has been working with chapters on a personal basis regarding their unique housing situation and impact to their homes."
The Tri Delta house is not owned by the national organization. The sorority rents the location from a landlord that is not affiliated with Penn. Abbe said their chapter has “consistently” tried to purchase the house from the landlord without any positive results.
“[The landlord] is not willing to sell, so consistently our rent has gone up and we’re now at the point that girls are paying at the high end of rent on campus,” Abbe said. “Because the landlord is not affiliated with the University, he is not in touch with new housing rule which is why we are not very optimistic about the possibility of renegotiating the lease.”
Tri Delta is looking at a smaller house on Spruce Street with eight bedrooms compared to its current 20-room house, she said.
“It’s only eight bedrooms so we’re not crazy about it," Abbe said. "We’d be going from 20 to eight, a bit too big of a leap, but we’re definitely open to new opportunities, because our current situation is not sustainable at all."
"Traditionally, Greek houses at Penn have been occupied largely by sophomores, so the system will need to evolve to be more attractive for juniors and seniors. That might look differently house by house, chapter by chapter," Monica Yant Kinney, Vice Provost for University Life Chief Communications Officer, wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Abbe said it would be more ideal if Penn owned their house, because then the University, who is responsible for implementing the new housing policy, can work with the sorority to build a more sustainable housing plan.
The loss of the house may also be an issue ahead of sorority recruitment. Abbe said one of the main selling points for Tri Delta is the large house.
“It’s really a shame because from my experience, being able to move into the house with most of your pledge class was really a great bonding experience and allowed everyone to break out of freshman year predetermined friend groups and really bond with a wider group that really only living all together can give you,” Cook said.
Zeta Tau Alpha and Kappa Alpha Theta leaders said their groups plan to keep their houses, despite the new housing policy.
Theta President and College senior Julia Coquard wrote in an email to the DP that Theta is not looking to move into a smaller house.
"Our house currently only holds 20 spots so it is significantly smaller than the Tri Delta house," she wrote.
The house is owned by Penn, which makes rent negotiations easier, Coquard added.
Zeta has signed a lease on their house for another three years, Wharton senior and Zeta President Elizabeth Vinton wrote in an email to the DP. They are “confident that it will continue to be an ideal place for our women to call home," she wrote.
The new Tri Delta officers, who will be elected by mid-November, will decide if they sell their house, Cook said.
When the new housing policy was announced in September 2018, then-IFC Vice President Brian Schmitt wrote a guest column in the DP, in which he argued that the decision to bar sophomores from chapter houses would bring “enormous harm to Greek life" and called on Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett to allow Greek life to count for on-campus housing.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.