Breaking ground: sorority housing project underway

Sorority Row

by Julia Wallace

Since March of last semester, students have expressed uncertainty over the news of townhouse style dorms reserved for sororities and theme houses, set to be ready by Advent 2014. After news of the bond circulated campus, many sorority members were quick to retaliate. Posters that read “Say NO to Sorority Row” covered the library and McClurg, and it seemed that most Greek women were emphatically against the impending change. However, this semester, with the destruction of the double and tripplewides (where KO, KD, PST, ATZ, and GTU used to reside), the sentiment seems to be changing.

“As someone who lived in the Kappa Doublewide for two years, I am so happy at the prospect of new housing for my sorority and for other organizations,” ISC President Maria Stratienko (C’14) said. “The planned building is physically beautiful and will jive really well with Sewanee’s existing building facades.” The houses, which will look similar to Tuckaway, will be located next to Stirling’s, in front of Gamma, and across from Barnwell, with four houses in each section. “They should be starting any day now,” said Dean Hagi Bradley, concerning the forthcoming construction. “I know that they’ve started tearing down trees.”

Despite the “Sorority Row” nickname, EMTs will also reside in one of the apartments, and depending on the number of sororities that agree to live in the new housing, the townhouses will also be available for theme housing. “We’ll have to know [which sororities decide to move in] by next semester before we start doing room draw and deciding theme housing,” Bradley said.

Seven to twelve upperclassmen will live in each house, which will consist of mostly single rooms. All twelve houses will also have a backyard, a kitchen, a living room, and a large space to gather on the first floor. “I honestly don’t know if everyone will opt in. I certainly hope so!” Stratienko said. “I do know some sororities have planned to leave the decision up to their underclassmen — a decision I completely understand and support.”

Among the concerns that come along with this new arrangement, at its center, students are apprehensive about how Greek life will change on campus. “I do think the new housing units will aid in placing our Greek community at the forefront among our peer institutions — not just in housing, but in promoting a community that consistently has higher GPAs, retention and involvement on campus both as members and leaders.

On campus, I think it’s a little early to speak definitively — but I can say that I do not view the characterization of the new housing as ‘Sorority Row’ as a true or valid one. The housing units don’t look like W&L (five separated Greek houses in a row) — the sorority houses might be interspersed in the new units with themed housing of other types, which definitely points to the integrated nature of our Greek community as one that empowers, but doesn’t limit our members. It’s a very purposeful placement and was made with Sewanee’s nature in mind,” Stratienko said.

Another concern is simply the proximity of each organization. With potentially four sororities grouped together in a cluster of four townhouses, students do not know what to expect for events such as Shake Day or formals. “[Sororities] would still be able to use the house in the same way that they use their houses now. If you look at it right now, all the sorority houses are owned by the University, so all the sorority houses are under the same rules and policies that they would be under in [the townhouses]. The University doesn’t fix fraternity houses because the University does not own them. A lot of them are in places where they need the repairs, but they can only get those if the alumni give them money.

So if you look at it, there’s really nothing that would be happening differently except that the sororities would be in different facilities that they’re in now,” said Bradely. “They would actually be in top of the line, top quality, brand new facilities. Our fraternities aren’t getting that opportunity.”

As Sewanee’s class sizes increase, these new facilities will also potentially make room for new dorms where the old houses are located. “Right now we need places for dorms. They are going to talk about building another dorm once they finish these, and then if we keep growing, you never know down the road if they could need more,” Bradley said.