Unclear Path to Greek Housing

The Stanford Row—that was once entirely Greek—now features only seven housed fraternities and three housed sororities. That is not to say there are no social Greeks on campus; rather the majority of them are involved with one of the various *unhoused *organizations. However, as it turns out, multiple unhoused fraternities and sororities have been trying to obtain a house for years.

Jonathan Gelbart ’11, former President of Alpha Epsilon Pi, or AEPi—an unhoused and traditionally Jewish fraternity—says that his chapter has “been trying to get a house essentially since [they] were founded in 1988.”

AEPi is not the only chapter requesting a house; in fact, as many as four Greek organizations are currently involved in discussions with either the Row Office or Student Housing about the potential of bringing a house to their respective chapter. And the efforts by these organizations are not surprising when considering the various benefits of a housed chapter enjoys.

Mirell reveals that “housed fraternities have larger operating and social budgets…more members than unhoused chapters…[and] throw more social events than unhoused chapters.” Nevertheless, despite all the various requests and attempts, the only recent successful switch from unhoused to housed occurred seven years ago, when Sigma Nu obtained a house in 2003.

The University recognizes 17 unhoused Greek Chapters, with both the Inter-Fraternity and Inter-Sorority Council chapters touting approximately 500 members each. All in all, approximately 13% of the undergraduate population is involved with a Greek organization, and according to Solly Mirell ‘10, current President of the Inter-Fraternity Council, “this number is going**up.”

The history of Greek life at Stanford is well documented. From the University’s opening in 1891, fraternities and sororities have found a place on the Farm. In 1916, there were as many as 24 fraternities and five sororities on campus, and eventually, all 36 houses on the row were occupied by Greek letter organizations. With time, however, various changes would come to Stanford’s Greek system.

In 1944—at the request of Stanford female students—a ban was placed on sororities, which subsequently remained in effect until 1977. For fraternities, the 1960’s and 70’s proved especially trying. A combination of outstanding debts and an overall decline in interest forced many organizations to respectively sell or close their houses. In 1986, a “Row task force” was created in response to certain instances of behavioral misconduct. And although rumors at the time of a complete ban on fraternities never came to fruition, the task force did ultimately decide to establish a 25 percent cap on the amount of Greek houses permissible on the Row. That brings us to today, and to a system very different from that of yesteryear.

Part of the reason why unhoused organizations have been mostly unsuccessful seems to lie in an inherent confusion about the exact process that determines the allocation of houses. Gelbart described this process as “a bit fuzzy.” Mirell, too, claims that “to the best of [his] knowledge, there is no set process by which an unhoused Greek chapter becomes housed.”

In search of clarification, the *Review *attempted to speak with the Head of Greek life at Stanford, Amanda Rodriguez. However, Rodriguez declined multiple interviews to comment on the issue, thus shrouding further mystery on the process used to determine how chapters obtain housing.

The only component of this process that is confirmed is an initial application. Mirell describes such an application as requiring “detail about [the chapter’s] national significance and mission statement, the history of their Stanford chapter, information about increased membership, parties and social events the chapter holds, community service it does and a short essay about why they’re seeking a House.”

Nonetheless, a catch-22 is quite obvious in this application process: the unhoused chapters are expected to display a history of social events and parties, but by not having a house, they are inherently set at a disadvantage to do such activities. Moreover, Mirell holds that even “meeting these requirements is by no means a guarantee that a chapter will obtain a house.”

After this application is turned in, the fate of the chapters are placed in the hands of the Row Office and Student Housing. However, Mirell characterizes these departments’ responses as “pretty apathetic and borderline dismissive of the issue.”

“It’s not that they consider it a non-issue,” Mirell maintains, “rather, they are more preoccupied with ensuring that all students are given their guaranteed University Housing assignment.”

Whereas Mirell sees the lack of progress as a byproduct of the unhoused Greek chapters being a lower priority, others hold a slightly different perspective. Gelbart, for example, maintains that while “Housing has been friendly and answered [his] questions, [they haven’t] actively helped [his chapter] get a house.” He continues to conclude, “the administration as a whole is pretty anti-Greek, so this isn’t terribly surprising.”

Be it either a lower concern for the requests of unhoused chapters, or an overall bias against the Greek system, one things remains: the process by which an unhoused organization becomes housed in puzzling at best. And if the unresponsive nature of the Head of Greek Life is any indication, those in charge of the process are just fine with that.

When the *Review *contacted fraternities and sororities for their opinion, most refused to comment, possibly suggesting the power the University administrators wield in their relationship with the Greek organizations.

Furthermore, despite the challenges Greek organizations face in order to gain housing, a sorority member, who wished to remain anonymous, lauded the negotiation process between her chapter and administrators:  “[Our chapter] has had some positive discussions over the past 12 months with the Dean of Residential Education regarding creative solutions to finding better space/meeting space for unhoused groups but nothing is definitive yet.”

For the time being, students should not expect to see drastic changes to the Row. However, if the numbers of students becoming involved in the Greek system continues to rise, it seems doubtful that the efforts of unhoused organizations can remain quiet for much longer.

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