In unprecedented move, sorority gets floor in I-House

Alpha Omicron Pi is the first U of C sorority to receive on-campus living and meeting spaces

By Christina Pillsbury

Some sisters of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) will live in International House (I-House) this year, due to an agreement providing housing and meeting space to the sorority—the first on-campus community living space for U of C sororities.

Until this agreement was drafted last spring between the director of I-House and AOII alumnae, sorority members used empty classrooms to hold their meetings. The agreement allots the sorority a floor of I-House, with a communal bathroom for AOII members, a kitchen, a meeting room and a student bedroom cleared of furniture for sorority memorabilia. Six members of the sorority will be living in singles on the floor this year, with hopes to increase in the future.

I-House, which has the capacity to hold up to 485 students, provides student housing that aims to create a diverse atmosphere; each year administrators attempt to maintain an equilibrium between international and American students; and undergraduate and graduate students. McCartney said this move will balance the population of the building in both regards.

Historically, University sororities have not had communal housing due to lack of funding, according to Delta Gamma (DG) president Christy Corfias, a fourth year. Because Greek organizations are not Registered Student Organizations they do not receive University funding.

“Sororities have only been around for about 30 years, and frats have been around for a lot longer,” said Corfias. “Psi U has been around for more than 100 years, they built their own house. If a sorority wants to buy a house, it would have to be funded by alumni.”

The agreement was drafted to benefit both the University and the Greek system, said I-House director Bill McCartney, adding that it will also serve to strengthen the relationship between the two institutions.

Housing Greeks in I-House “has a tremendous advantage for the institution as the more of the student population living on campus, the stronger the academic climate,” said McCartney, who worked closely with the University of Mississippi Greek community during his tenure as its director of housing. “Living on campus strengthens the [Greek] bond with University as well as within the sorority.”

Additionally, living on campus offers sorority members a “safer, more secure and more convenient living situation and provides a more academic environment,” McCartney said.

According to McCartney, six members of AOII will reside in singles on one floor of I-House. (info is repeated in 2nd paragraph). Many AOII members were already committed to other living arrangements when the agreement was signed in the spring, and the sorority hopes to increase these numbers in the future, said a member of AOII, who preferred to remain anonymous due to a change in her role within the Greek system. This is good- waiting on the numbers from their President.

“We had so much interest, and everyone was really excited about it,” the AOII member said. “But because the contract took so long to draw up, it wasn’t presented to the chapter until the end of March, and a lot of girls had already signed apartment contracts.”

Sully Drotar, a third-year AOII member, who at the time the agreement was presented to the chapter had a flexible housing situation for the upcoming year, jumped on the chance to live with her sisters. Drotar moved into I-House this June.

Next time, McCartney hopes to start the conversation with AOII members earlier, before housing decisions are made for the following year, in order to encourage Greek members to consider living in I-House.

“I think that if we had started our discussions with the AOIIs in October instead of the spring, we would have had a much stronger response,” McCartney said. “And one of the things we’ll be doing is evaluating this both from the perspective of AOII and of the I-House.”

Since this arrangement was drawn up between Lara Duda, an attorney who sits on the Chicago board of AOPII alumnae, and McCartney, the offer only extends to the one sorority thus far.

“It was fortuitous and a little accidental how this came about. I had a meeting with an AOII alum about Greek life on campus in general,” McCartney said. “She was lamenting that sororities don’t have housing and suggested that life would be enhanced with housing on campus.”

McCartney hopes to expand the offer to other Greek organizations in future years. “If the agreement is positive for both [AOII and the University], we plan on having further discussions with other Greek organizations,” he said.