Fraternities under occupancy risk losing chapter houses

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Nine of the 13 recognized fraternities with chapter houses at Lehigh are under occupancy, while all eight of the sororities with houses are over capacity.

Walker Robinson, ‘22, a member of Sigma Phi Delta, the recognized engineering fraternity that does not have a chapter house on campus, worked in the Residential Office this summer. He said a fraternity or sorority must maintain 90 percent of what the house can hold in order to maintain the occupancy level.

Gryphons count against that number as a body in occupancy — if a Gryphon lives in in the Centennial II complex, for example, and is also part of Greek life, then that Gryphon still counts toward the occupancy for the chapter house, Robinson said. 

If a fraternity remains under occupancy, the house is given three chances to fill those spaces. After the third failure to reach 90 percent, the fraternity is subject to losing the Greek house, Robinson said. 

Phi Delta Theta fraternity almost lost its house in spring 2019, but the university has afforded the fraternity another semester to increase occupancy from 76 to 90 percent.

If Phi Delta Theta does not meet capacity, the house will be repurposed like House 87 or House 93, Robinson said. 

Through his work with the Residential Office this summer, Robinson made sure all the Greek houses had the correct furniture and prepared members’ keys.

“We took a lot of furniture out of the houses,” Robinson said. “Other than that, there was no direct indication (of houses being under occupancy).”

He said he took many furniture sets out of Greek houses because they had no need for the furniture. Fewer people living in the houses means fewer beds are needed, Robinson said.

There are four open houses on the hill which aren’t occupied by Greek organizations. Three of these houses are now themed communities, and House 93 is regular housing, though it is below 50 percent occupancy.

“I think that is a growing expectation of Greek life across the country,” Robinson said. “It has not had the best of public opinions over the past few years.” 

Robinson said he believes many people come into college only seeing and hearing negative stories about Greek life, so they have preconceived notions.  

He said the positive side of Greek life is rarely shown. 

Alpha Tau Omega had been at 79 percent occupancy and was projected to lose its facility on Jan. 31, 2020. Preston Read, ‘21, president of Alpha Tau Omega, said the chapter house met occupancy this fall.

Typically, Alpha Tau Omega only extends bids to between one to three potential new members in the fall. 

“This semester, we recruited six new members so that we could be at full occupancy next semester,” Read said. 

Read said he thinks a lot of other houses will be using similar tactics. 

Phi Sigma Kappa is under occupancy and is projected to lose its Greek house on Sept. 4, 2020.

Kyle Brady, ‘21, a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa executive board, said the organization will likely not fill enough spots in the spring.  

“I feel like the occupancy issue is a struggle to deal with, especially with how non-lenient the university is,” Brady said. 

While Phi Sigma Kappa does not give out continuous open bids, the fraternity did have two new members who joined during fall rush this year. 

Even with the two new members, Brady said the fraternity have to use other tactics to try to fill the house to capacity. Phi Sigma Kappa had three seniors live in the house last year and has one in the house this year. He said these seniors have to break leases they have signed at least a year in advance for off-campus houses. 

Looking forward, Brady said the executive board is focused on recruitment. 

“With that negative connotation, it seems like numbers have been going down in recent years compared to how it was years ago,” Brady said. “We’re really just pushing the idea that there’s more to Greek life than just the tank tops to appeal to a wider audience to try to bring back the numbers.”

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