Members of Greek life expressed frustration toward Penn’s requirement that sophomores live on campus — which excludes fraternity and sorority housing — one year after the policy was implemented.
The second-year housing policy, which was first announced in 2018, was enacted for the first time in fall 2021 for members of the Class of 2024, drawing pushback from students involved in Greek life. Penn has since reaffirmed that on-campus housing will not include affiliated fraternity and sorority housing, prompting changes in how Greek housing operates. Student leaders in Greek life told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they have seen less occupancy in Greek housing and greater difficulty in building community among their chapters.
Penn’s Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, the administrative liaison between Greek life and the University, acknowledged that the sophomore housing requirement has caused significant shifts among fraternity and sorority chapters, but said it has worked with Greek life homes to address issues.
“The Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has adjusted to the sophomore housing requirement by working with chapters to plan next year’s occupancy during the fall term,” OFSL told the DP via email. “We’ve [the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life] also worked collaboratively with campus partners and chapters to review occupancy configurations in each home.”
Greek life housing occupancy has posed a problem since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but intensified specifically with the second-year policy among Greek life. Before the policy, sophomore members contributed to a significant portion of fraternity and sorority houses’ occupancy.
College junior Praveen Rodrigo, the president of Penn’s Beta Theta Pi chapter, said that his fraternity house has seen reduced occupancy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sophomore housing requirement. The chapter house currently houses 15 members, coming short of the school’s expected occupancy of 25 members. However, Rodrigo expects the numbers to increase to between 20 and 27 members in the next semester.
Rodrigo added that the housing process includes guidelines for the occupancy rates in chapter houses. For example, a chapter house receives warnings for each year there is a steady decline in occupancy, eventually leading to the threat and loss of the chapter house. He said that chapter houses across the board are feeling the pressure of maintaining occupancy in order to keep their houses, describing it as a “stressful” situation.
“I would say definitely with the new rules, people adjusting to it, and COVID still lingering, it’s probably a problem [that] I would assume many chapters are feeling,” Rodrigo said.
College senior Andrew Wilks, Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter president, expressed similar sentiments and stated that while their chapter has managed to maintain occupancy, other organizations have been more heavily impacted than others.
“I think it’s put a large amount of strain on Greek life. We’ve already seen some Greek organizations lose their houses because prior to it sophomores at least [in] the large chapter houses, sophomores would comprise most of the house,” Wilks said.
In addition to reduced occupancy, students — including College junior Lucas Loschiavo — told the DP that the sophomore housing requirement negatively impacts Greek life community building.
Loschiavo, the president of Penn’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter and the vice president of programming of the Interfraternity Council, said the sophomore housing requirement is making it more difficult to build community and create opportunities for sophomores to interact with each other.
“It’s just getting to a point where some chapters, their houses are getting closed down for the year, some chapters are losing their houses, and things are just negatively trending based off of this change,” Loschiavo said.
Prior to the announcement of the sophomore housing requirement on Sept. 26, 2018, Greek life leaders from the IFC and the Panhellenic Council met with two Penn administrators to discuss the effects the policy would have on Greek housing.
While on-campus fraternity and sorority chapters have made successful efforts to maintain their chapter houses and previously said they are no longer pushing the administration to count Greek housing as on-campus housing, they are hopeful that the University will reconsider the sophomore year policy to include Greek housing.
“I don’t think we have accepted our fate, because the IFC has been talking and trying to get a meeting together with [Penn President Liz Magill] to see if we can talk about the housing program and explain why it’s detrimental to all of our fraternities and sororities,” Loschiavo said.