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Sorority myth does not hinder housing

May 7, 2009

A legend circulating around UW-River Falls says that the sororities on campus are not allowed to have houses for their chapters due to a City of River Falls ordinance.

This, however, is a myth, according to the future River Falls City Administrator Scot E. Simpson. As the myth states, no more than eight women can live in a house at one time in the City of River Falls without it being considered a brothel. 

The zoning section of the City ordinances of River Falls states that a fraternity or a sorority house means a building occupied by an organized group of 10 or more students where succession of membership and lodging are given to the houses occupants.

The City has no problem with both sororities and fraternities having houses within city limits, the myth was something that was started a long time ago and has been traveling through Greek chapters and campus every year, according to Simpson. 

The only houses that are currently being used by campus Greek life are those that are occupied by the three fraternities: Alpha Gamma Rho, Theta Chi and Delta Theta Sigma. The five sororities on campus include Alpha Omicron Pi, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Sigma Alpha and Phi Mu. 

Although some members from each sorority may live together, they are not allowed to have a specific house designated for their sorority according to an agreement called the National Panhellenic Housing Agreement. 

There are some sororities members that are aware of this agreement, but there are some, especially new members to the Greek community that have been given the myth as a reason as to why their chapter does not have a house. 

This is something that is not required to be addressed among sororities on campus but can lead to confusion among the newer members. Ashley Clow, in her first year as a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, found that when she asked her sisters why they did not have a chapter house she received a mixed response. 

What Clow found was that the first response she was given was that due to a City ordinance concerning the amount of girls living in one house they were not allowed to own one for the chapter. The second response that she received from senior members of Sigma contained information about a national housing agreement that bound the sororities in deciding not to have houses for this campus. The National Panhellenic Housing Agreement was first drafted in 1989. 

“The purpose of this agreement is to secure for all sororities an equitable housing plan through cooperation with each other and with their respective National Councils,” Sara Gliniany, UWRF’s Greek Coordinator, said. 

The agreement was drafted because the National Council wanted to make sure that all of the sororities on campus could afford housing for their chapter. They decided that if one sorority could not afford to own a house than the other sororities should not have them as well out of respect. This was also intended to be used to cut the cost for students who wished to be a part of a sorority on campus, according to Gliniany. 

When asked if they would like to see their sorority obtain a house within the next couple of years, the response from some members was mixed as to whether or not it would benefit or hinder their sisterhood.  There is a worry that while having a house may increase the number of potential new members for a sorority it would also bring with it more unwanted drama among sisters, Clow said. 

“I think that it would be amazing if we could have houses because everyone would be centrally located so that we would not have to take up a room on campus just to have a meeting, this would allow all sisters in the sorority to have better communication as well,” Alexis D’Aquisto of the Phi Mu sorority said. 

There are some members of sororities on campus who feel that the addition of a chapter home would be the best thing because it would separate sororities from feeling like a club on campus instead of a sisterhood.

“Right now the sororities on campus seem more like a club than a sisterhood because we are not allowed to have a house,” Katie Sheehan of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority said. “I think that the sisterhood among us would become stronger and would also make Greek life more popular within the campus.”